A Kafkaesque nightmare in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s groundbreaking sci-fi thriller in two parts.
Following the mysterious death of one colleague and the disappearance of another, technical director of the Institute of Cybernetics and Futurology Fred Stiller is forced to become a detective and plunge into a whirlpool of intrigue in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s visionary Neo-Noir that anticipated The Matrix and Blade Runner.
Fassbinder’s only sci-fi project and his second series after the Neo-Realistic soap opera Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day (1972), World on a Wire overwhelms both with its pioneering ideas and aesthetic visual solution. With its emphatically unnatural, Brechtian acting manner set in sophisticated mise-en-scenes composed of mirrors, wires, and futuristic technology, the story evolves around the Simulacron supercomputer, which contains a virtual model of reality inhabited by artificial personalities, for whom this world is real enough. Stiller's sanity cracks when it is revealed that his own supposedly real world is probably also generated. As a theater director in every sense who perceived life as a stage, Fassbinder considered the concept of virtual reality (primarily shaped by cinema itself) as relevant as possible.
Despite some splashes of warm primary colors from the renowned cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, the series retains a cold, misanthropic tonality, typical of Fassbinder’s cinema in general. Themes of martyrdom, manipulation of others in the name of love, and labor exploitation, as well as disputes about Plato’s philosophy, are wittily woven into an action thriller full of explosions, gunfights, and chases in convertibles. The overall psychedelic mood is emphasized by the central music theme—Fleetwood Mac’s classical instrumental track Albatross and Gottfried Hüngsberg’s music, an elusive flow of synth sounds into the piano and back.
Part of the Garage Digital public program, the screening is timed to anticipate the Moscow iteration of the exhibition World on a Wire. The exhibition runs from October 15 through December 12, 2021, online at Rhizome and offline at Hyundai Motorstudio, Moscow.
The series will be screened in German with Russian subtitles.
World on a Wire
Dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Germany, 1973. 204 min (I:101/II:103). 18+