Criterion Sunday 598: Welt am Draht (World on a Wire, 1973)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder made this as a two-part mini-series of German television, hence the inordinate length. As a filmmaker, he was always reliable for turning in tightly edited works, but he made a few longer form television works that have their own rhythms and intensity. This is science-fiction, but it’s the kind that uses modernist buildings to signify a vaguely futuristic world like Alphaville (and both have roles for Eddie Constantine; a surprise to see him because the Godard film seems like an eternity away, but was actually only eight years before this film). The themes are to do with artificial intelligence, alternative realities, people who are programmed creations living without free will, and about the madness that it induces — and it’s very much more the madness that Fassbinder is interested in than in the set design of his world or in CGI effects or whatever later films might want to focus on. It meanders a bit towards the end, but it’s fascinating, a twisting, turning journey which really lands some of those twists.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder; Writers Fritz Müller-Scherz and Fassbinder (based on the novel Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye); Cinematographers Michael Ballhaus and Ulrich Prinz; Starring Klaus Löwitsch, Mascha Rabben, Karl-Heinz Vosgerau, Barbara Valentin, Adrian Hoven; Length 212 minutes.

Seen at home (Blu-ray), Wellington, Friday 23 December 2022.

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