Rainer Werner Fassbinder
The main character is Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch), a researcher/engineer at the IKZ Institute. The institute has built a supercomputer called Simulacron, a virtual reality populated by “identity units” that, as they live and make love like humans, believe it all to be real. There are nearly ten thousands of these “circuits” and the IKZ suits see no reason to stop there.
His mentor and friend, Professor Vollmer (Adrian Hoven), vanishes after discovering too many of Simulacron’s secrets. Then IKZ’s security head, Günther Lause (Ivan Desny), disappears, and no one claims to have heard of him. Then one of the “circuits,” Einstein, tries to find a way out by committing suicide. Then Vollmer’s daughter (Mascha Robben) tells Stiller that he may not be the man he thinks he is.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire (1973), based on Daniel F. Galouye’s novel Simulacron-3, is a science-fiction tale that lacks special effects. It doesn’t need them. Instead, it wants us to think, Who is being watched, and when, and by how many? All of the worlds in the film are a bit of a demonstration of how a lot of people get their kicks. Aren’t we all avid movie and TV junkies? Aren’t there video games created specifically for the purpose of designing your own world and choosing who lives there?
Originally made for German television, World on a Wire runs in two parts at 212 minutes. It is long, yes, but Fassbinder seems to know what he’s doing in each scene. This is a piece of work that needs its time. And in the end, we are alienated and controlled, left with the question, Where does it end?
Interview with Gerd Gemünden (34:14): In this interview, Fassbinder scholar Gemünden discusses the themes of World on a Wire and the reputation of its director.
Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 12-page booklet featuring an essay titled “The Hall of Mirrors” by film critic Ed Halter.