Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Produced by: Werner Herzog
Rupert Maconick

Written by: Werner Herzog

Music by: Mark Degli Antoni
Sebastian Steinberg

Cinematography by: Peter Zeitlinger

Editing by: Marco Capalbo

Studio(s): NetScout
Pereira & O'Dell Entertainment
Saville Productions
Skellig Rock

Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures (United States)
Dogwoof Pictures (United Kingdom)

Release date(s): January 23, 2016 (Sundance Film Festival)
August 19, 2016 (United States)
October 28, 2016 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 98 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: N/A

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $594, 912 (United States only)

Alrighty then, today's film up for review is Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World, the latest film by Werner Herzog, who, for those of you that don't know, I hold in high regard. There's very few people I genuinely look to, outside of my admiration for their work, as an artistic inspiration, but Herzog is one of them. From his days of slogging around Peruvian jungles while his contemporaries of the German New Wave made urban films (I just recently re-purchased Aguirre, Wrath Of God in a pristine BFI Blu-Ray edition) to his contemporary fame over the past decade since Grizzly Man. Based today primarily in Los Angeles, the great master has made quite the reputation as a documentarian, and this film, Lo And Behold, is one of two feature-length docs he has put out this year (along with Netflix original Into The Inferno). With this film, Herzog explores, in a manner not dissimilar to his stunning AT&T short From One Second To The Next (yes Sam, if you're reading, I did finally watch it!), the implications of technology's ever-increasing place in our lives. Got it? Good!

To start off with the good, at risk of sounding biased, nobody depicts non-fiction quite like Herzog. He approaches fact in the same way he approaches fiction, the only difference being that he is more explicit about the questions being asked. The Internet, robots, space exploration, all manner of technology-related things fall under the ever-watchful gaze of this unique mind, who for all of the general perception of him being a bit crazy is the only one oftentimes asking the most poignant, topical, relevant questions about what all of this really means. Not only does the film make us think, but in Herzog's oh-so elegant manner, he also entertains us with some moments of absurd humour, touch us with some of the wonderful potentialities and also to frighten and disturb with the more tragic, horrific aspects of technology. This elegance extends to the cinematography by Peter Zeitlinger, who in between talking-heads segments (or in the middle of these scenes, as evidenced by Marco Capalbo's editing), has obviously spent time gathering some wonderful pick-up footage, shooting the machines as though they are some great natural wonder. The same can be said for the music by Mark Degli Antoni and Sebastian Steinberg, whose minimal compositions let the subject speak for themselves, and fit well alongside the grandeur of Richard Wagner, whose Vorspiel from Das Rheingold is used in the film (not the first time Herzog has used it; Brownie points at play for those who can tell me where else it has been used). I don't want to say a huge amount else because I'd run the risk of giving away too many details, so I'll relate the story of how I saw it. I watched this film on a live stream broadcast of the UK premiere through the website of Dogwoof, the UK distributor of the film, who of course have put out some great movies in the past over here such as Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act Of Killing and The Look Of Silence. I had a cold at the time, so despite my being a stubborn one about 'the big screen,' I refused to let other people suffer my sneezes and sniffles, and reluctantly watched it on my laptop. Not overlooking the irony behind all of this, it also got me to thinking of the social relevance of this film, and the fact that I do feel this is a work of significance, for it was through the live stream that I was able to view the film. Heck, even this review, as with all of my back catalogue, would not find an audience without the opportunities opened up by the Internet. As such, Lo And Behold ties in marvellously with the omnipotent presence of technology in our lives.

Before you start, hear me out when I say that although I enjoyed the film and acknowledge it's significance that I do not think it is a masterpiece. Also, this is another one of those cases in which there is nothing that is particularly wrong with the film itself. As far as I'm concerned, from an objective standpoint it hits all the right beats, but I have to also take into account my subjective standpoint, which is that I didn't, for lack of a better word, connect to the subject matter as much as I with some of his other work. Fundamentally, although his work always attempts to elevate it's subject to an epic scale, a higher pantheon, to express, in his own words, the "ecstatic truth," what draws me in Herzog's work is the singular tales of extraordinary characters and people like Aguirre, Kaspar Hauser, Stroszek, Fitzcarraldo, Dieter Dengler, Klaus Kinski and Timothy Treadwell, and their interactions with the world around them. Ultimately, Lo And Behold, for all of the praiseworthy qualities, I feel is less about humans per se than a study of human behaviour. Do see it, it's a great and significant film, but that's just how I feel looking at it from a subjective angle.

Well, there you have it. While I have some reservations about my connection to the subject from a subjective angle, I feel that Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World is another great documentary from Werner Herzog. Aesthetically, it is a sound film made with real elegance, and, in true Herzogian fashion, he is able to take just about any subject he decides to look upon and deliver a potent message, in this case how technology impacts upon our lives. Not only that, it's his own unique twist on the overall scheme of things that makes a subject that in other hands could be a dreary, rather mundane work into something which is at the best of times awe-inspiring and devilishly entertaining.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.6/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool

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