Dystopian Sci-Fi: World on a Wire

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s recently restored 1973 film World on a Wire is a paranoid dystopian epic. The only science fiction film Fassbinder ever made, World on a Wire was filmed in 16mm for German television, and largely forgotten. Thanks to the Fassbinder Foundation, we can finally view this lost classic that predates Blade Runner by 9 years.

And World on a Wire is recommended viewing for Philip K. Dick fans. A scientist named Stiller who runs a virtual world discovers a corporate conspiracy to use the simulation for financial gain. People disappear or are forgotten. Newspaper articles mysteriously change. And soon, much more troubling questions emerge about the nature of existence.

This lo-fi sci-fi film is refreshingly free of CGI and special effects. The use of mirrors and reflections in the cinematography is superb, and the electronic incidental music is wild. Ed Halter’s article for Criterion provides an excellent overview of the film. The special features include an excellent interview with Fassbinder scholar Gerd Gem√ľnden. Available on DVD or on Blu-ray.