Werner Herzog's New Documentary Will Keep You On The Grid

Werner Herzog is terrifying. So much so, in fact, that he’ll tell you, “I know how to be scary. I played a villain in Jack Reacher.” A laughable accomplishment for such a legendary filmmaker. Still, Herzog managed to mention it both before and after the Sundance premiere for his new film, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. The documentary is his latest contribution to the industry, based on the Internet and technology. It was an interesting choice of topic, coming from a person who doesn’t even own a cell phone. It’s also a vague subject on surface level, but in true Herzog fashion, each chapter of the new doc unwraps layers and layers of oddities.

“I know how to be scary. I played a villain in Jack Reacher.”

Herzog is one of the most, if not the most, prominent voices in documentary filmmaking. His Sundance stunner Grizzly Man is easily one of the most shocking documentaries to have come out this century, while films like Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Encounters at the End of the World offer insight through Herzog’s narration. What’s most interesting about Herzog and his new film is his embrace of humor. Whereas the aforementioned docs also had a fair bit of laughs, Lo and Behold is chock-full of Herzog’s dry, razor-sharp wit. It played well to the audience.

Herzog takes on technology.

Fans of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos will fall in love with Lo and Behold. In the film, Herzog interviews a slew of astrophysicists and robotic engineers and, in doing so, demonstrates his unparalleled skill for interviewing. It’s clear that the interviewees are not shy to express themselves honestly and their expertise candidly.

Lo and Behold’s themes cover everything from artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, to Wi-Fi on Mars and the dangers of solar flares. Although there are many, many stories and firsthand accounts that make you realize just how despicable we can be on the Internet, the film is overtly positive. If, while watching the movie, there’s a little voice inside of you telling you to go off the grid, Herzog’s dry narration in his slow, Austrian cadence swoops in and convinces you to not jump off quite yet.

A still from ‘Lo and Behold.’

Over the years, Herzog’s role in film has changed drastically. Indeed, he told me, “My prose will outlive my films, [it] will have a longer life.” He’s only seen three or four films this year, and, as he stated at his premiere, “They were really bad.” Once known for directing Klaus Kinski in such masterpieces as Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Herzog is now the director we look to to calm our nerves, to provide a sharp-tongued joke, and to make room for logic to intervene. He believes that birds are more likely to be screaming in agony than singing sweet lullabies—in short, he’s been making people chuckle to themselves for years. Yet now, more than ever, Herzog is using humor to hold a mirror up to society. Lo and Behold is a reflective, considerate documentary, one that teaches us so much about how we live today. Not to mention a perfect opportunity for an entirely new generation to familiarize themselves with the one and only Werner Herzog, filmmaking legend.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, was purchased by Magnolia Pictures at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and will be released later this year.

Original imagery by Kathryn Chadason. Additional image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Stay tuned to Milk for more documentary coverage.

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