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Thirteenth Floor, The

Entry updated 16 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1999). Columbia Pictures presents a Centropolis Entertainment Production. Directed by Josef Rusnak. Written by Rusnak & Ravel Centeno-Rodriguez, based on Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel F Galouye. Cast includes Craig Bierko, Vincent d'Onofrio, Dennis Haysbert, Gretchen Mol and Armin Mueller-Stahl. 100 minutes. Colour.

The programmers of a Virtual Reality simulation of 1937 Los Angeles discover that their own world is itself a simulation, and that its makers have infiltrated their own creation with sinister designs that must be thwarted from within.

Emmerich and Rostaf, German expatriates in Hollywood, had grown up on the Fassbinder adaptation of Galouye's novel as Welt Am Draht (1973), which they (rightly) felt superior to the wave of then-fashionable Virtual Reality scripts that were crossing Emmerich's desk in 1994, and secured the rights to a remake. In this version the simulated reality is a recreation of Los Angeles in 1937, itself a reality under construction; thus the pivotal sequence where the hero drives to the edge of his world to find the landscape giving way to raw digital wireframe is echoed within the simulation in a journey to a luxury hotel complex under construction in the middle of the desert. Following test screenings, the ambivalent ending was reshot to show the hero's happy awakening into a sunny future world – though the final shot hints that this upper reality may itself be a simulation at a higher level. Unlucky enough to hit cinemas two months after The Matrix, the film was more or less dead on arrival with its retro noir stylings, its resistance to high-kicking action, and the stiffness of Rusnak's direction of his American cast. [NL]


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