Welt am Draht (World on a Wire). 1973. West Germany. Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Screenplay by Fassbinder, Fritz Müller-Scherz, based on the novel by Daniel F. Galouye. With Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin, Mascha Rabben, Margit Carstensen. Digital restoration courtesy of Janus Films. In German; English subtitles. 212 min.
Fassbinder’s science-fiction thriller, based on Daniel F. Galouye’s 1964 American novel Simulacron-3 (aka The Counterfeit World), ingeniously reflects on the idea of the simulacrum, a concept that has bedeviled philosophers from Plato to Baudrillard while creeping out audiences for nearly as long. Originally broadcast on German television in 1973 and painstakingly restored in 2010 by Juliane Lorenz, director of the RWF Foundation, and Michael Ballhaus, the film’s cinematographer, World on a Wire was, in Fassbinder’s own words, “a very beautiful story that depicts a world where one is able to make projections of people using a computer. And, of course, this leads to the uncertainty of whether someone himself is a projection, since in the virtual world projections resemble reality. Perhaps another, larger world has made us as a virtual one? In this sense it deals with the old philosophical model, which here takes on a certain horror.”