Based on the American science fiction novel, Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel F. Galouye, World on a Wire is about virtual reality, world created inside a computer program, a pre-cursor to the Matrix. I believe this is the first movie adaptation of Simulacron-3, although there have been many sci-fi movies with similar themes since then. The Thirteenth Floor (1999) is another adaptation of the same novel (oddly, 1999 is also the year for the Matrix and The Dark City, another great sci-fi movie).
World on a Wire was made in 1972 for German TV. It is made of two parts each one is aboout an hour and half long. The movie has a very distinct visual style and atmosphere; the interior shots, camera angles, the locations, actors are very 1970 German.
I like this movie a lot because of its different style but it is probably not for anyone's taste. Even though the subject matter is sci-fi, there are no spectacular special effects or action scenes which are typical of Hollywood productions. However, I think the movie overall does a pretty good job of creating an eerie atmosphere and paranoid feeling of the world not being real.
I was especially amazed by how some of the scenes and ideas seem to be pre-cursor to the Matrix. For instance, the subjects sit in a chair with wires hooked up to their heads and they get downloaded to the computer world (you may think of that as the matrix) and if they want to exit the computer world, they use a phone booth. Sounds familiar?
I also like the love affair depicted in the movie; in my opinion it works so much better than the affair between Neo and Trinity in the matrix.
I recommend this movie for any sci-fi fan who can appreciate foreign movies with unique styles even if they lack CGI and spectacular special effects.