Mitnick In The News
Lo And Behold: Werner Herzog looks at the Internet (and also at Werner Herzog)
Aug 5, 2016 - THE EX-PRESS, by Jay Stone
Movie review: Lo and Behold
A new documentary examines the web from a variety of offbeat angles, and decides that it represents the biggest innovation in human history since Werner Herzog movies
The Internet began on Oct. 29, 1969, at 10:30 p.m., in room 342D of the University of California in Los Angeles. A machine called an Interface Message Processor was connected to another computer 400 miles away — a host-to-host link, they called it at the time — and sent a message. “Login,” it was supposed to say, but the system crashed and only the “Lo” got through.
As great moments in science go, then, it was fairly modest, but you should see it now. That’s the burden of Lo And Behold, Werner Herzog’s documentary about the Internet and — in the fashion of many of the director’s projects — also about Werner Herzog. In 10 short chapters, the German filmmaker examines the web from a variety of eccentric angles and manages to insinuate himself into several of them. At one stage, he volunteers to fly on a mission to Mars being contemplated by Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, who’s considering an alternative in case things get uninhabitable on Earth. (For the record, the movie was made before the Republican National Convention.)
Lo And Behold is thus both intriguing and beside the point, but along the way, Herzog — who previously gave us such breathtaking sights as grizzly bears, 30,000-year-old cave paintings, and Klaus Kinski — finds lots of oddball facts and unexpected connections, as befitting a movie about a wired world. For instance, back in the 1970s there was a slim phone book that listed all the users of the Internet: a computer pioneer named Danny Hills recalls that there were two other Dannys in the book. Today, he says, such a volume would be 72 miles thick.
Herzog, who would make a great subject for a documentary himself, wanders here and there among the tendrils of the computer revolution; the movie’s subtitle is Reveries of the Connected World, and it lives up to a promise of random musings. The movie is visually static, but intellectually restless. We meet someone who has taught robots to play soccer and hopes that one day, a soccer-playing robot team can beat the world champions, although he’s silent on the possibility of robot hooligans rioting in the stands. A handsome middle-class family gathers to talk about how they were tormented by Internet trolls after their daughter died. Herzog finds some women who live in isolation in the Appalachian hills, far from cell phone towers, to protect themselves from what they feel is the harmful radiation of wireless signals.
There’s an interview with Kevin Mitnick, introduced as the world’s most famous hacker, who tells how he intercepted police messages and had a refrigerator filled with doughnuts waiting for the FBI when they came to arrest him.
Needless to say, Herzog is there as well, both narrating and interrupting, in his distinctive Bavarian accent, to assure one subject that although computers may one day be able to make movies on their own, they wouldn’t be as good as his. But anything is possible: one expert in Lo And Behold contemplates a day when we’ll be able to tweet our thoughts — speaking of computer crashes — and another wonders whether future generations will need human companionship at all. Is the Internet enough?