Friday, March 06, 2015

"World on a Wire" is Fassbinder's experiment with layered alternate realities


World on a Wire” (or “Welt am Draht”. 1973) is a television film (two parts, over 3 hours total) by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, based on a “double worlds” transition that foreshadows ideas is Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”.
  
The film is shot I 16 mm and in rather saccharine color, and has a funky look.  West German television in the early 1970s had only two channels, so Fassbinder was guaranteed a wide audience.
  
The premise of the film is the development of a computer system called the Simulacron, which simulates a full reality for all of the “identity units” inside.  It might sound like today’s “Second Life” augmented by virtual reality.  The founder (Adrian Hoven) makes a discovery and mysteriously dies, and the protagonist, Fred Stiller (Klaus Lowitsch) takes over.  Ehen Stiller is talking to Lause (Ivan Desny), the security director, the latter disappears.  In time, other employees disappear.
  
As the film develops, people inside the simulation try to cross over, back and forth, and like in the Nolan film, it becomes difficult to tell where you are.  Many scenes have ironic composition (like the orange clock), rather like Kubrick, to suggest dual reality.  Stiller winds up at a cabin in the woods, where surreal things like dog attacks and trees falling happen. 
  
At the end, Stiller is shot to death on top of a car, but then seems to be resurrected in the other reality, which may now be like a prison.
 
In his 2011 book "The Hidden Reality", Brian Greene discusses simulated alternative universes in a chapter toward the end.  This will be covered on my Book Reviews blog soon. 
  
  
The two disc set has a lecture by Gerd Gemunden and a 40-minute short “Looking Ahead to Today”.
    
The DVD’s are available from Netflix, and are distributed by the Criterion Collection;  apparently Janus Films has done limited theatrical showings.  

For a distantly related short film. try "The Afterlife Dysfunction" (9 min) about consciousness and quantum theory here.

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