14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2010
If you like sci-fi that requires some thought and investigation rather than just being amazed by the effects this is for you.
You can guess the main plot twist quite quickly but there's a lot more to discover with some careful viewing and a very satisfying ending that will leave you contemplating how it would feel to be the main character in the last few moments of the film.
Although shot in the early 70's, the futuristic world, which now looks dated, makes a lot of sense in light of the plot and is surprisingly future proof given the overall premise (how we think things will be, not how they are). It would really be a stroke of genius if this was deliberately designed by Fassinder, one suspects, however, he was heavily influenced by Alphaville, simply using futuristic but modern buildings that reflect the ideas of the future at that time, i.e., cheaper than building new sets!
The accompanying documentary is very revealing with regard to clever casting decisions which, unless you were living in West Germany and at least in your twenties when broadcast, won't be apparent.
Each part exists on a separate disc and there's a definite feel of an original film plus a very good sequel. There are prominent 'cut off' points exactly half way in each part which suggests it may have been originally planned as a four part serial or these are spaces designed for 'non-intrusive' commercial breaks.
The only negatives are, a few marks on the film that should have been cleaned up (in the documentary it shows them making the decision not to!) and occasionally over-the-top audio cues which are slightly jarring. However, most of these faults are in the first twenty minutes and soon forgotten.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2010
A cybernetics institute creates a computerized virtual world resembling our real world & inhabited by "identity units" indistinguishable from humans. This virtual world can be accessed by wearing a headset & getting hooked up to the Simulacron 1 network, but chief scientist Dr Stiller suspects some virtual citizens are coming the other way, crossing over into the real world & passing themselves off as human. Then he starts to suspect a much darker secret - perhaps our real world is itself a programmed computerized virtual world....
Fassbinder has been well served on DVD by the multiple box sets issued a few years back, but there were several items missing - such as World on a Wire, which now turns up & is a real surprise. It was a sci-fi television series (two feature length episodes) broadcast in Germany in 1973. Original television audiences probably responded with a mixture of curiosity & bafflement similar to original reactions to The Prisoner or Twin Peaks.
It is filmed in Fassbinder's customary deadpan style with his usual idiosyncratic quirks & perverse touches, but the genre conventions are respected & a fairly tight focus on the plot maintained - helped by a powerful & relatively "straight" action hero central performance by Klaus Lowitsch as Dr Stiller. The main influence has to be Godard's Alphaville - it was mostly filmed in Paris & even features a Lemmie Caution cameo and, as with Godard, the characters are prone to intense philosophical discussions about Plato's theory of forms and suchlike. There are also themes concerning the totalitarian manipulation of reality and identity, not so much for political or fascist ends but by late capitalist consumerism & marketing.
The film was based on a novel & all these themes were doubtless common in the sci-fi literature of the period, but Fassbinder gives them his typical highly intelligent & radical twist and in terms of cinema the film is strikingly ahead of its time, perhaps because it is driven by high concepts rather than easily dated special effects. As the blurb for the DVD claims, the film prefigures not only Bladerunner but the more recent wave of "paranoid" films about identity & technology such as Existenz & The Matrix. That said, World on a Wire may be primarily for Fassbinder freaks rather than regular sci-fi buffs, but it is pretty accessible & of contemporary interest so it could have a more general "cult" appeal.
The DVD version has been restored by the RWF foundation & includes a good documentary in which some of those involved look back at the making of the film.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2010
This is definitely worth watching for originality. The actors have been directed to use a very mannered style which is a bit peculiar, especially in the women who seem more or less drugged into a complete lack of expression. However, this is more than made up for by the philosophical points raised by the plot, the stunning interiors, the ground breaking camera work and the sheer feel of pure science fiction as opposed to space opera, action blockbuster or Hollywood remake. This one makes you think.