New Documentary Tries To Define The Internet And Where It's Heading

Werner Herzog's "Lo and Behold" should make us wonder.

Compared to the history of the human race, the Internet is very, very young. That seems strange given its enormous impact on our lives today and the advanced places it could take us next, but it's true. The Internet of Things may be on the horizon, but the email as we know it didn't exist 25 years ago. Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog has seen plenty of the world before that point, and today only keeps a mobile device "for emergencies." Combine his near-abstinence from the Internet with a clear interest in how its birth changed the rest of us, and it's clear he's in a unique position to explore just how and why. Hence the arrival of his new Documentary, Lo and Behold.

Broken into 10 different segments, the film is funded by cyber-security company Netscout and apparently doesn't attempt to give a full history of the Internet. Rather, each part briefly explores the different existential relationships people have with it — be they creators, users, or some hybrid of the two. Herzog interviews Elon Musk and Ted Nelson, both progressive minds in their own right, but he also talks to people in a community utterly devoid of radio waves and cellular signals. That suggests the point isn't to predict the future of the Internet based on the views of the world's thought leaders on the subject, but to get a take a stab at defining the Internet as a whole.

From that, we might be able to piece together some educated guesses at where mankind's increasing dependency on the Internet is headed, but obviously we won't know for sure until we get there. Herzog often focuses on people in conflict with nature in his films, so it's not too surprising for him to tackle the Internet, which as a man-made creation openly clashes with the natural world. Furthermore, his outsider perspective allows him to explore these ideas without being too close to them.

"I was curious because I come at the whole thing as an outsider — someone who barely uses the Internet, someone who doesn't use a cellphone," he told Mashable. "But I do believe I can see the contours more sharply than others."

Now, that same perspective may very well lead to a couple swings and misses with concepts that only people married to the internet fully understand. Still, those of us who stare deep into various Internet-inhabited screens the majority of every waking moment could probably benefit from his view. If nothing else, it's another film from a man whose failures are still immensely thought-provoking at worst.

Cover image: Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films via YouTube