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Welt Am Draht

Entry updated 23 February 2017. Tagged: Film.

Made-for-tv film (1973; vt World on a Wire). ARD. Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1946-1982). Written by Fritz Müller-Scherz, Fassbinder, based on Counterfeit World (1964; vt Simulacron-3 1964) by Daniel F Galouye. Cast includes Günter Lamprecht, Klaus Löwitsch, Mascha Rabben, Wolfgang Schenk, Barbara Valentin and Karl Heinz Vosgerau. Originally broadcast in two parts, each 105 minutes. Colour.

Fassbinder was perhaps the most brilliant German film director of the 1970s; this was his only sf film. For the purpose of exploring new technologies, the Institute for Cybernetics and Futures Investigation has its giant Computer, Simulacron, create a possible future within its own circuits: a Virtual Reality whose "human" occupants – in reality, programs – are unaware of their status and can be deleted if they behave wrongly. In the real world, in the Institute itself, mysterious incidents occur, and the protagonist, Stiller, realizes that his world too is a simulation controlled from a higher level, and that to learn this truth is fatal. His lover turns out to be a projection from the higher level, a level in which a Stiller-equivalent is the ultimate manipulator pulling wires. Stiller succeeds in taking the place of his higher-level counterpart.

In Galouye's novel our reality is the middle level, whereas in the film our world is the top level, but that does not diminish the film's threatening effect, for an atmosphere is built up of exchangeability on all levels, so that reality is dissolved and no place is left for security. Fassbinder made the most of his low television budget by exploiting real locations in modern offices, using glass, concrete and neon lights alarmingly to create a sense of the artificiality of the real. [HJA]


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