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World on a Wire(1973)
Simulacron 1 is the highly advanced project of a near-future cybernetics company. At the heart of the project is a supercomputer programmed to create a virtual world populated with computer-generated people known as 'identity units'. When the project's leader has a mental breakdown and commits suicide, his successor, Fred Stiller, takes over. However, as he delves deeper into Simulacron, the line between the real world and its simulated counterpart becomes increasingly blurred, and before long he too is spiralling into madness.
For more about World on a Wire and the World on a Wire Blu-ray release, see World on a Wire Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 1, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin, Mascha Rabben, Peter Kern (I)
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
» See full cast & crew
World on a Wire Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 1, 2012
Recently restored, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Welt am Draht" a.k.a "World on a Wire" (1973) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's theatrical trailer; new and exclusive video interview with German-film scholar Gerd Gemunden; and Juliane Lorenz's documentary film "Fassbinder's World on a Wire: Looking Ahead to Today". The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic Ed Halter. In German, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The future. The government has built a giant supercomputer, Simulacron, and with it created a virtual world where human replicas live unaware that they are being used to predict consumer habits and social trends.
While attending a lavish party set up by Herbert Siskins (Karl Heinz Vosgerau, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum), the powerful boss of the Institute for Cybernetics where Simulacron was designed, Henry Vollmer (Adrian Hooven, Despair), the man in charge with Simulacron, becomes ill and then disappears. After the party, his assistant, Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Cross of Iron), is asked to take over the project. While trying to figure out what might have happened to Vollmer, Stiller also begins to feel sick.
Eventually, Stiller is approached by Guenther Lause (Ivan Desny, Lola), the head of security, who mentions to him that Vollmer might have been assassinated because he had crucial information that could discredit Simulacron and the people who built it. At first Stiller does not take seriously Lause's words, but later on changes his mind. When he attempts to see him again, he is told that Lause, or anyone even remotely fitting his description, was never associated with Simulacron.
Intrigued by the strange developments, Stiller turns into a detective – he begins questioning his colleagues, meeting people who might have known Vollmer and Lause, and visiting places that the two men used to frequent. He also befriends and falls in love with Vollmer's daughter Eva (Mascha Rabben, The Sensuous Three), who tells him plenty about her father's past and work with Simulacron.
Meanwhile, with Siskins' blessing a big corporation is given access to Simulacron and its data. Outraged and seriously concerned, Stiller questions Siskins' decision and even attempts to discredit him, but quickly realizes that he is backed by powerful people with unlimited resources. Filled with anger, he refocuses on Simulacron and finding out what exactly might have happened to Vollmer and Lause. Soon after, he becomes ill again.
Loosely based on American writer Daniel F. Galouye's novel Simulacron-3, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire is a complex film that blends elements from a variety of different genres, from sci-fi to thriller to political drama. It was originally made for German TV, but in 2010 it was restored by the Fassbinder Foundation and screened at the Berlin International Film Festival.
What makes the film so fascinating to behold is the fact that its narrative constantly evolves. Well into the final third of the film, which runs at approximately 213 minutes, there are serious twists that make it very difficult to properly put everything together. Admittedly, there are some clues that point to the bigger picture, but with so many twists to consider and so many characters to follow recognizing their importance isn't easy.
Despite the unusually complex narrative, however, that classic kinky Fassbinder touch is still felt in the film. There are more than a few excellent psychedelic sequences, chic parties with lovely naked bodies, plenty of time dedicated to mirrors and reflections (both key elements in Fassbinder's films), and even a few quick but well calculated political jabs.
The film is guaranteed to surprise many viewers with its incredibly accurate expectations about the future. Clearly, it was well ahead of its time as years later many of the key ideas in it will be entertained in such films as Josef Rusnak's The Thirteenth Floor, the Wachowski brothers' The Matrix, and Christopher Boe's Allegro .
World on a Wire Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
Recently restored, World on a Wire looks great on Blu-ray. The high-definition transfer has that very pleasing thickness which newly restored older films have when they transition to Blu-ray without problematic post-production corrections (excessive sharpening, severe denoising, etc). Close-ups with plenty of light, in particular, look great. Color reproduction here is also vastly superior - on the R2 DVD release by Second Sight the blues and reds often look pale; here they are well saturated and looking fresh. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. This said, while the restoration by the Fassbinder Foundation has obviously completely transformed the film, there are still a couple of scenes where small damage marks revealing its age remain (see screencapture #13 where a horizontal line splits the image frame). Nevertheless, this is a very strong, very competent presentation that does the film justice. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
World on a Wire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: German LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The improved range of dynamics is very obvious if you have the R2 DVD and decide to run a few tests. The audio effects/noises that pop up with Stiller's headaches are also slightly more clear. Gottfried Hüngsberg's psychedelic music score also gets a decent boost - the sound is notably thicker and fuller. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and very easy to follow. The English translation is excellent.
World on a Wire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
World on a Wire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire is a glorious sci-fi mind-bender that was clearly well ahead of its time. Recently restored by the Fassbinder Foundation, the film is undoubtedly a masterpiece of German cinema waiting to be rediscovered. If you could afford to buy only one Blu-ray this month, get this excellent Criterion release. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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