REVIEW: DVD Release: World On A Wire

Series: World On A Wire
Release date: 17th May 2010
Certificate: U
Running time: 204 mins
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin
Genre: Sci-Fi/Crime
Studio: Second Sight
Format: DVD
Country: Germany

World on A Wire has rarely been seen outside of its native Germany, yet with recognition of its influence on the likes of David Cronenberg and The Matrix, the two-part feature-length series has being awarded a more general release in the UK, over thirty years after its original television debut.

It is the near-future, and Dr. Stiller is in charge of The Simulacron, a virtual reality machine which contains a fully functioning universe - an entire population of living projections existing within the confines of one supercomputer. The inhabitants of this reality have complete freewill, and are none the wiser to the true nature of their lives.

However, in the real world strange things are happening. Dr. Vollmer, one of the original creators of the machine, is found dead. Not long after this, one of Dr. Stiller’s co-workers Gunther Lause disappears mid-conversation, and is seemingly wiped from collective memory. The problem is Dr. Stiller remembers, and is perceived by all around him to be slowly going insane.

When one of the virtual-reality creations escapes from the computer and into the real world, it begins a chain of events that sees Dr. Stiller arrive at the realisation that the lines between the real and the non real are not as concrete as first assumed...

This plot will seem familiar to any fan of modern science-fiction; however, this is an atmospheric and visually inventive film that delves into the theories of ‘reality as projection’ with a straight-faced seriousness, negating the use of cheap post-modernism and knowing irony. What begins as a noir-ish crime investigation becomes a more interesting investigation into the nature of identity, memory, reality and the strange role that cinema plays in defining the above.

Fassbinder’s World On A Wire is a knowing un-reality, a Bretchian display of construction, which suits the plot perfectly. Long tracking shots are interspersed with strange high and low angles. Bunsen burners are held under the camera so the picture warps and swirls, the lighting subtly morphs during scenes, casting strange shadows and nauseating movement. In this way, the ‘reality’ in which this story exists (the filmic reality) is shown to be a construction, much like the world of The Simulacron.

By way of its self-referential visual flair, we as an audience are never allowed the comfort of ‘cinema as escapism’; we are forced to de-construct the film, and more disturbingly, the world around us. To further this point, the mise-en-scène is populated with falsities, versions of ourselves which, while convincing, are merely the projections of our egos onto the inanimate. This is a world of mirrors, statues, paintings and shop mannequins, wrapped in celluloid and projected onto our television screens.

While this could have so easily descended into the realm of ponderous debate, World On A Wire is in fact an engrossing thriller. Klaus Lowitsch’s performance as Dr. Fred Stiller allows us a believable, and more importantly likeable hero who shares our confusion and dismay as the world around him unfurls, becoming nothing short of a suffocating nightmare. The pacing keeps the element of chase and danger prominent, while allowing for the more cerebral elements to come through, a trick that was sadly lacking from the similar, but lesser-quality, Matrix sequels.

The use of music in the film is another way in which the tension is allowed to build. The soundtrack is one which shifts from beautiful classical to Krautrock sirens and electronic noise - a shifting which happens with alarming regularity and speed. Combining a disorientating use of camera with a disconcerting soundtrack, World on A Wire creates a fully immersive audio/visual experience.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s dystopian fantasy explores the link between perception and reality by dismantling the constructive nature of film. Its view of the future will seem dated, and its plot will cause many a viewer to experience strong déjà-vu, but World On A Wire goes deeper then it’s modern re-hashes, and will inspire many an audience member to join in the philosophical debate. AC

No comments:

Post a Comment