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World on a Wire (Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

World on a Wire is a gloriously paranoid, boundlessly inventive take on the future from German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder (The Marriage of Maria Braun). With dashes of Stanley Kubrick, Kurt Vonnegut, and Philip K. Dick, as well as a flavor entirely his own, Fassbinder tells the noir-spiked tale of a reluctant action hero, Fred Stiller (The Odessa File’s Klaus Lowitsch), a cybernetics engineer who uncovers a massive corporate conspiracy. At risk? (Virtual) reality as we know it. Originally made for German television, this recently rediscovered, three-and-a-half-hour labyrinth is a satiric and surreal look at the weird world of tomorrow from one of cinema’s kinkiest geniuses.

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration

Fassbinder's "World on a Wire": Looking Ahead to Today, a 50-minute documentary

New interview with German-film scholar Gerd Gemunden

New English subtitles

Trailer for the 2010 theatrical release

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Ed Halter


Product Details

  • Actors: Klaus Lowitsch
  • Directors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 21, 2012
  • Run Time: 212 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0068CEGFY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,809 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a movie that I've been wanting to see since I was young, but, although it was made in my time, it wasn't readily available. Alas, Criterion has finally released it, and I was so excited to finally see it!

Basically, it is a TV movie based on the early 1960s sci-fi short story by Daniel Galouye. It's about an engineer who is caught not only in an ethical dilemma on how his machine that mimics reality should be used (for the good of people or for corporate greed), but he debates whether he is in a fabricated reality or a real one. It is more, but I'm not going to ruin it.

The movie itself is an excellent adaptation of the novel MINUS the CGI effects (no flying cars, no futuristic city, no public-opinion polsters). It is made in similar style to Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451," Godard's "Alphaville," and Barzyk's "The Lathe of Heaven" (or even, dare I say, "A Clockwork Orange"). Many sci-fi fanatics may find this problematic, but I love these movies because it makes them more "down to earth" and more human (for lack of a better word) and less "contrived" and/or reliant on special effects to tell the story.

The Criterion version has restored Fassbinder's movie, with not only an outstanding digital transfer, but "New English subtitles" (as stated on the back). I have only seen 1 scene in my life, and it was from a horrible copy! Fassbinder may not be a name associated with sci-fi, but the movie has all of his traits found in other movies he directed: muscular men of different races, overly made-up women with large, blond hair, and give-and-take dialogue. There's even a "Lili Marleen" bit! Equally masterful is his constant use of mirrors (or any reflective surfaces, such as water) and windows. It's fascinating to watch!
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Format: Blu-ray
Based on the American science fiction novel, Simulacron-3 (1964) by Daniel F. Galouye, World on a Wire is about virtual reality, world created inside a computer program, a pre-cursor to the Matrix. I believe this is the first movie adaptation of Simulacron-3, although there have been many sci-fi movies with similar themes since then. The Thirteenth Floor (1999) is another adaptation of the same novel (oddly, 1999 is also the year for the Matrix and The Dark City, another great sci-fi movie).

World on a Wire was made in 1972 for German TV. It is made of two parts each one is aboout an hour and half long. The movie has a very distinct visual style and atmosphere; the interior shots, camera angles, the locations, actors are very 1970 German.

I like this movie a lot because of its different style but it is probably not for anyone's taste. Even though the subject matter is sci-fi, there are no spectacular special effects or action scenes which are typical of Hollywood productions. However, I think the movie overall does a pretty good job of creating an eerie atmosphere and paranoid feeling of the world not being real.

I was especially amazed by how some of the scenes and ideas seem to be pre-cursor to the Matrix. For instance, the subjects sit in a chair with wires hooked up to their heads and they get downloaded to the computer world (you may think of that as the matrix) and if they want to exit the computer world, they use a phone booth. Sounds familiar?

I also like the love affair depicted in the movie; in my opinion it works so much better than the affair between Neo and Trinity in the matrix.

I recommend this movie for any sci-fi fan who can appreciate foreign movies with unique styles even if they lack CGI and spectacular special effects.
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Format: DVD
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film in this newly released Criterion DVD draws immediate parallels to Fahrenheit 451, François Truffaut's nightmarish vision of a world without books. Fassbinder's film is less openly allegoric, more rooted in a world where corporate interests align with science and technology run amuck. It's especially chilling that a mere 28 years prior to the making of this 1973 film, Hitler's Gestapo performed the same type of eugenics experiments, and deployed the same numbering scheme on human "units" depicted in the film. Fassbinder deploys the same rapier on journalists that he uses to skewer corporate tycoons, noting they seem more interested in helping themselves at a massive press conference feast than in unmasking the human experiments taking place under their noses.

There are several places in the film where Fassbinder could have imposed his vision and left the viewer in the dust, but he's always careful to continue the story thread, and thus keep viewers in the loop. His world is highly stylized, there are no wasted frames - nearly every camera shot is tinged with erotic undertones or duplicity in the making. Fassbinder's film career was as tinged with notoriety as it was brief - this film is as good an introduction to his work as you will find.
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Format: DVD
In 1973, auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder ("Ali: Fear Eats the Soul", "Lili Marleen", "The Marriage of Maria Braun", "Why Does Herr R. Run Amok") created his first sci-fi film "Welt am Draht" (World on a Wire) which aired on German television.

A common practice at the time for German filmmakers was to have a theatrical production which was then shown on television at a later time. But for Fassbinder, he created several films for television due to him wanting his work to gain popularity in Germany and the fact that there were not as many places to view cinema in Germany at that time.

The film was broken down to two parts and was an adaptation of Daniel F. Galouye's novel "Simulacron-3'.

"World on a Wire" featured a screenplay adaptation co-written by Fritz Muller-Scherz ("Fiorile", "Belle's Paradise"), cinematography by Michael Ballhaus ("The Departed", "Goodfellas", "Gangs of New York", "Dracula") and Ulrich Prinz ("Martha", "Fear of Fear") and music by Gottfried Hunsberg ("La Paloma", "Shadow of Angels").

The film would star Klaus Lowitsch ("The Marriage of Maria Braun", "Cross of Iron", "Das Urteil") as the main protagonist, Fred Stiller. The film would star actress Barbara Valentin ("Ali: Fear Eats the Soul", "Martha"), Karl Heinz Vosgerau ("The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum", "Knife in the Back"), Wolfgang Schenk ("Martha", "Effi Briest") and Gunter Lamprecht ("Berlin Alexanderplatz", "The Harmonists", "Das Boot", "The Marriage of Maria Braun").
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