WORLD ON A WIRE (Rainer Werner Fassbinder). 205 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (June 17) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. See listing Rating: NNN
As a rediscovered piece of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's filmography, World On A Wire - screening twice this weekend at TIFF Bell Lightbox in a restored 35mm print - offers a peek into an alternate reality where the maverick director of Love Is Colder Than Death and Beware Of A Holy Whore reinvented himself as a heady genre stylist.
Produced as a miniseries for German television in 1973, Fassbinder's sci-fi opus posits a near future when advances in computer technology have led to the creation of a virtual reality within a mainframe called the Simulacron.
But all is not well: scientist Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch) is beginning to suspect that someone or something is manipulating his own reality. Is he just paranoid or are people actually disappearing? Are mysterious agents following him? And what ramifications might that have for all of existence?
If you've seen The Thirteenth Floor - which was adapted from the same Daniel F. Galouye novel that Fassbinder and co-writer Fritz Müller-Scherz used as their source - then nothing in World On A Wire will seem particularly surprising. In truth, the story's twists and turns weren't exactly cutting-edge in 1973. The Twilight Zone aired in West Germany, right?
Fassbinder's hip-and-happening future, patterned after Godard's retro-slick Alphaville, now looks remarkably like the world of Mad Men, so when the action slows down for characters to trade deep insights about the nature of reality, you can just bliss out on the production design and wardrobe. And you can wonder what Fassbinder might have done with Atlas Shrugged.