lo and beholdThis latest documentary offering from eccentric and prolific director Werner Herzog explores the texture of modern life itself: the internet. Specifically, where it came from, where it went right and wrong, all while measuring human nature against a future full of robotic automation and artificial intelligence. It’s a reel of robotic apocalypse nightmares and visions of a simplified world.

Capturing that vast a subject in a single film is daunting, but Herzog manages an eerie yet breakneck tour of both the internet’s greatest victories — such as life-saving robots being built at Carnegie Mellon and the possibility of living on Mars — and its greatest horrors — like leaked photos of deadly car accidents and radiation sickness victims living in Faraday cages. 

The structure of Lo and Behold is not immediately clear. It’s broken into chapters that are treated as meditations on the nature of the technological world and human society itself, mainly conducted through interviews with scientists, hackers and entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk.

Herzog’s bemused German-accented narration and a haunting strings soundtrack provide a sense of cohesion.

The variety of participants helps the film vacillate between moments of lighthearted optimism and poetic doom in rapid succession. One scientist, reflecting on the inevitability of the next huge solar flare that will likely wipe out all electricity and internet connection, says, “It will be unimaginably bad. And I’d prefer not to think about it right now.” Lo and Behold offers no such escape.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World screens on Saturday at 11 a.m. at UNCSA Babcock Theatre and April 10 at 7 p.m. at Hanesbrands Theatre.

— Joanna Rutter

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