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Mitnick In The News


New Werner Herzog documentary ponders the online world

Aug 4, 2016 - North Shore News, by Julie Crawford

Lo And Behold: Reveries of a Connected World. Written and directed by Werner Herzog.
Rating: 7 (out of 10)

Those hoping for a particularized history of the Internet will not find it in Werner Herzog’s playfully thought-provoking Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World.

First of all, the “reveries” of the title should have prepared you for a meandering exploration of our century’s most astounding achievement, not a comprehensive one. Secondly, it’s Werner Herzog, he who revels in smudging the lines between reality and fiction, he who can’t resist injecting more poetry and drama into his films than is typically called for.

That is why when Leonard Kleinrock, our first guest, takes us to that “sacred location, a holy place” from whence the first Internet message was sent, he is loudly accompanied by Wagner’s Das Rheingold (written exactly one century earlier). And why Herzog has the moxie to ask his subjects – Internet pioneers, astronomers, cosmologists, and the like – the decidedly airy-fairy question “does the Internet dream of itself?” and expect a straight answer.

The film has universal appeal: ’net-heads will enjoy peeking behind the panel into the first Internet computer at UCLA while we can all marvel at an early and very thin directory of world-wide Internet users (there were three guys named Danny), and mourn the sick harassment of a family after grisly photographs of their daughter surfaced online. While the tech lingo thrown around in the film will stick for some viewers, the rest of us can rightfully chuckle at Kleinrock’s dizzying mathematical formulations (on a chalkboard, no less!).

Knowing that many of his viewers will be flummoxed by the science, Herzog kindly breaks the film into 10 easy-to-digest pieces. The Glory of the Net follows a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist whose video game has inspired a disparate community of players to solve genetic problems. Life Without The Net visits a rehab centre in Washington state where people struggle to overcome Internet addiction (and the director bemoans not being able to discuss malevolent dwarfs with a patient).

Elon Musk explains the do-or-die deadline for colonization (“in the window before technology is wiped out”) in The Internet on Mars chapter. The End of the Net posits how it may all come to an end because of a long-overdue solar flare: “if the Internet shuts down, people will not remember how they lived before that,” states a cosmologist.

And Earthly Invaders features an interview with Kevin Mitnick, “the world’s most famous hacker,” and security analysts who show how vulnerable the Internet has made us to all manner of catastrophe.
Then things get trippy, when Herzog starts thinking of the Internet itself as a living imaginative force in his Artificial Intelligence chapter. “The Internet is going to propagate out of control,” states one expert: “we will need to be our own control.”

Dozens of interviewees and a myriad of filming locations make for interesting reveries, indeed, as does writer-director Herzog’s inclusion of offbeat subjects: a cluster of monks who all seem to be tweeting rather than meditating; a scientist who has been labelled a madman by many thanks to water-inspired theories and original cut-and-paste arguments that never quite caught on.

Like Herzog, the narrative may wander, but in kinship with the director we can’t help but delight in every discovery.