web analytics
Free Press TV Inaugural Episode is here!
September 28, 2024 – 3:03 am | One Comment

The good thing about video is it is harder to mis-spell shit.
Free Press TV has arrived and brought friends. Join us as we interview Mayor Annise Parker, go to the gun show, visit with Arthur …

Read the full story »
Film Vulgaria
Music Circa Survive Supports O’Brother
Art Asia Society TX Center
Featured Free Press TV Inaugural Episode is here!
FPSF The Fatal Flying Guilloteens: A Two Sided Blade of The Absurd and Sublime
Home » Film

World on a Wire

Submitted by MBergeron on October 5, 2024 – 4:54 pmNo Comment

Back in the day, say the mid-80s, you could expect about a dozen titles of Rainer Werner Fassbinder to play annually with some regularity at a Houston theater whether it was the MFAH, or the Rice Media Center or the River Oaks (then a repertory theater showing two different films per night) or even a small screen at the University of Houston where German studies professor Sandy Frieden taught a course on Fassbinder’s films. Fassbinder died in 1982 at the age of 37 with at least that many feature (or German television) movies to his credit, so a dozen titles is merely one-third of his output.

World on a Wire (Welt am Draht, from 1973) was not a title that popped up with any frequency, like say The Marriage of Maria Braun, The American Soldier, Despair, Fox and His Friends or In A Year of 13 Moons. So adding that onto the list of Fassbinder films I hadn’t seen seemed like a non-issue. Only having now seen World on a Wire it’s obvious that this plunge into cerebral science fiction rates at the top of Fassbinder’s prolific output.

If you’re familiar with Fassbinder films you’ll recognize a fair amount of actors that populate his other movies. If you’re unfamiliar with Fassbinder at all you will, no doubt, have heard of The Matrix, or similarly the abstract notion of sci-fi that is the world of Philip K. Dick. World on a Wire is about a computer, the Simulacron, that controls the reality of the characters.  What WOAW lacks in massive effects it makes up with controlled camera movement, striking color design and a thought process that allows the audience to believe the character’s they’re watching are shifting between states of reality.

Obviously I’m using the word reality a lot but it’s this subtle nuance of one moment looking at a sketchbook and the next moment looking at the same sketchbook but all the drawings have disappeared that permeates World on a Wire. Nothing unfolds with the continuity one expects in daily living, certainly that’s how each day progresses for Fred Stiller (Klaus Lowitsch) a scientist who takes over the Simulacron project when the previous leader dies. Another diversion Stiller uses involves putting on a kind of virtual reality helmet and going into an alternative reality where he discusses plot points with Einstein. A phone booth is used as a gateway device for this transaction, which is one reason I brought up The Matrix.

Fassbinder made WOAW in 16mm as is common for television and one of the cinematographers was Michael Ballhaus now known as well for his many collaborations on Scorsese films. Fassbinder uses a calibrated speed zoom into Stiller’s face with regularity throughout WOAW, sometimes to comic effect, other times to heighten tension. There’s also a type of blocking that Fassbinder uses with his talent that’s been ripped off in every perfume commercial ever made.

World on a Wire, playing at the MFAH this weekend (October 7-9) deserves attention from foreign film buffs and sci-fi mavens alike.

- Michael Bergeron

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

You need to enable javascript in order to use Simple CAPTCHA.
Security Code: