Originally made for German television in 1973, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s visionary science-fiction thriller World on a Wire has only been shown in America once before, in 1997, as part of a comprehensive Fassbinder retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art. MoMA’s Department of Film recently participated in a restoration of the film, and we are proud to present the luminous new 35mm theatrical print. Working from the original 16mm negative and a digital transfer, Juliane Lorenz, director of the RWF Foundation, and Michael Ballhaus, the film’s original cameraman, supervised the making of the new print. The restored film had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February of this year, and will now become part of the Museum’s collection.
World on a Wire is an extraordinary work—prescient, fluid, eccentric, and as wildly compelling as any of Fassbinder’s other masterworks. Made a quarter-century before The Matrix (1999), which touches on similar issues, Fassbinder’s film is an adaptation of Daniel F. Galouye’s 1964 American novel Simulacron-3, also known as The Counterfeit World. As the director described it, World on a Wire is “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.”