World On A Wire - Second Sight UK Blu-Ray Review
Release Date: February 18, 2019 in the UK
Starring: Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin and Mascha Rabben.
Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Simulacron 1 is a highly advanced project, designed to elevate conventional computer technology to a new level by creating a virtual reality inhabited by computer-generated people or 'identity units'. When the head of the project dies mysteriously after showing signs of mental disturbance, Dr Stiller becomes his successor. As he begins to probe deeper into Simulacron, the line between the real and virtual world becomes increasingly blurred and his own existence is questioned.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's acclaimed science fiction classic has been hugely influential, with themes that would later be explored in films such as The Matrix.
REVIEW: World On A Wire is my first experience of watching the work of the late prolific German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder who died at 37 from a drugs overdose. His career only lasted less than two decades but in that time he helmed over forty films and two television series, with World On A Wire being his first it serves as a great introduction to his work - alongside showing the influence it would have on future, high watermarks in the sci-fi genre.
World on a Wire is based on the novel ‘Simulacron-3′ by Daniel F. Galouye (which was once again adapted into a film as The Thirteenth Floor). In the present day, scientists have developed an artificial world inside a computer system where individual ‘identity units’ have been programmed to act like humans, unaware they’re actually just computer simulations.
When the technical director of the program, Professor Vollmer played by Mark Of The Devil's Adrian Hoven, dies in a mysterious way, his successor, Dr. Fred Stiller, has a discussion with Günther Lause, the security adviser of the institute. Then Günther suddenly disappears without trace, before passing on Vollmer's secret to Stiller. More mysterious still is the fact that none of the other IKZ employees seem to have any memory of Lause. We follow Stiller as he tries to make sense of the lines of reality and simulation getting into all sorts of scrapes which leave him on the brink of insanity.
It's fascinating to see Fassbinder’s creativity and how he tells the story of World On A Wire within the confines of a television budget and the limited shooting days they got back in the 70s - when working in TV didn't have the production values it does now in the streaming world. Despite the lack of budget, the art direction and design has that 70s-glamour-gone-wrong feel mixed with small amounts of colour, against the cold of the harsh industrial buildings that made up the German cityscapes of that decade.
The mini series was shot quickly by famed cinematographer Michael Ballhaus on 16mm and the Blu-Ray restoration of World was supervised by him - providing a comparison with the type of shots he'd construct working with Martin Scorsese on Goodfellas with his use of mirrors and dolly shots.
The mini series doesn't have a score and only chooses to use sound effects to accentuate points in the storytelling and uses existing classical music, alongside an Elvis Presley track “Trouble”, in the scene where Stiller is being chased by trenchcoat wearing men in a restaurant.
Our lead Klaus Lowitsch who plays Dr Stiller may be a short man but he has great screen presence and is a force of nature as he questions what is happening around him - what is real or what is a simulation? The supporting cast enhance proceedings with excellent performances from Gottfried John (Goldeneye) and Uli Lommel, famous for directing The Bogeyman, who plays a tweed sports coat wearing journalist. If I have any issues with World On A Wire it's the script by Fassbinder and Fritz Müller-Scherz. Did it have to be told over two parts? and, also, the parts for women aren't greatly written - it’s more like they serve the story as observing set decoration.
BLU-RAY REVIEW: This Second Sight limited edition release comes packaged in a two disc set with in-depth documentaries, archive behind the scenes footage, featurettes, interviews with crew members and noted professor Nick Bostrom. World On A Wire is worth the time of people who like their Sci-Fi full of ideas and invention, steeped in a noir flavoured existence.
No Strings Attached - an interview with assistant director Renate Leiffer
Observing Fassbinder a tribute to photographer Peter Gauhe
Looking Ahead to Today documentary
Original Broadcast Recap
The Simulation Argument an interview with Professor Nick Bostrom
Optional English subtitles
LIMITED EDITION ONLY:
Rigid slipcase packaging
50 page perfect-bound booklet featuring new essays by Anton Bitel and Daniel Bird and archival writing by Daniel Oberhaus and Christian Braad Thomsen
Format: Closed-captioned, PAL
Number of discs: 2
Studio: Second Sight
Run Time: 204 minutes
Or you could get the US Criterion Disc here:
If you’re in the US you can order this edition now baring in mind it is a PAL disc: