Werner Herzog on His Doc ‘Lo and Behold’

Director Werner Herzog during the press conference for the film Queen of The Desert at the 2015 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Axel Schmidt)

The film traces the evolution and revolution of the Internet, from its triumphs to its perils and how dependent we are on it.

TORONTO—Werner Herzog has a rather distant relationship with the subject of his new documentary, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World.”

The film traces the evolution and revolution of the Internet, from its triumphs to its perils and how dependent we are on it–well, most of us.

“Personally I do not use very much of the Internet,” the 73-year-old Oscar- and Emmy-nominated German filmmaker said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles.

“I do email and eventually I look at Google Maps and sometimes I do Skype with family. But that’s about it. I do not have a cellphone.”

Herzog, an Oscar nominee for the 2007 doc “Encounters at the End of the World,” said he doesn’t have a cellphone “for cultural reasons.”

And those social media accounts bearing his name?

“All these are fake–Facebook, Twitter, you just name it, they’re voice imitators and they’re people who are giving advice under my name,” he said. “It’s, at least, I would say three-dozen impostors out there.”

“Lo and Behold,” voiced by the movie-making great, starts at the University of California, where the first Internet message was sent on Oct. 29, 1969.

Herzog looks at the Internet’s growth since then, from its use in science and robotics to its dark side.

Among those profiled is a couple who was devastated when a photo of their late daughter, decapitated in a car accident, was shared online.

Herzog also speaks with players addicted to online gaming, as well as a group who claim to have become very ill from radiation sickness caused by cellphone towers.

“As far as I know it’s very controversial and the main opinion is that it’s a psychosomatic issue,” said Herzog of their apparent illness.

“But I did not want to challenge anything and I wanted to give them at least a voice. Whatever the real medical findings are, we do not know. It’s very controversial, apparently, in the medical world.”

The doc also explores the Internet’s role in the development of artificial intelligence and the possibility of one day posting online with telepathy.

“They can already create images of your thoughts … and we have a fuzzy image that you can actually create from the thought alone,” said Herzog, who will be at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival with “Salt and Fire.”

The big question in the film: with solar flares and natural disasters disrupting communications, how do we keep the Internet running? How do we guard it? The idea of the Internet completely shutting down one day “is a palpable possibility,” said Herzog.

“Massive solar flares, they occur every 200, 300 years and that would shut down the Internet, at least for quite a while,” he said.

“Knowing that, we should rather disentangle certain things from the Internet–essential things … very basic things like water supply, electricity grid. So [we] should develop solid fallback positions that are not connected to the Internet.”

“Lo and Behold” opened in Vancouver and Montreal on Aug.5, and will open in Toronto and Calgary on Aug. 12, and in Ottawa on Aug. 26.

From The Canadian Press

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