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World on a Wire (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (1973)

Klaus Löwitsch , Barbara Valentin , Rainer Werner Fassbinder  |  Unrated |  Blu-ray
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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World on a Wire (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + Solaris (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Product Details

  • Actors: Klaus Löwitsch, Barbara Valentin, Mascha Rabben
  • Directors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 21, 2012
  • Run Time: 212 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0068CEGB8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,308 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

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


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 Originally made for German television, this recently rediscovered, three-and-a-half-hour labyrinth is a satiric and surreal look at the weird world of tomorrow from one of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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars before the Matrix, there was the World on a Wire February 23, 2013
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars World on a Wire Blu-ray Review February 29, 2012
By izay142
[...]

The only science fiction movie that German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder ever made was this long-lost three-and-a-half hour long film made for German Television. It has traces of "The Prisoner" to it, along with influences of Stanley Kubrick, Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick. The satirical look at the futuristic world of computer technology was incredibly ahead of its time in 1973, and is a recently rediscovered gem for film fans to now experience on high definition Blu-ray.

The film's storyline is simple, and even familiar in the sense that these themes have been touched upon by countless filmmakers from David Cronenberg to Steven Spielberg ever since. Fred Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch) is a cybernetics engineer who is responsible for the creation of a complex computer world of virtual reality cities and people. It is like Sim City, but the cybernetic people aren't aware that the life they are living isn't actually reality, but virtual reality which can be visited though a machine.

When one of Stiller's co-workers dies suddenly, there are suspicions of foul play. As he investigates this mishap, a deeper corporate conspiracy is discovered, and Stiller begins to doubt his own existence and reality. There are hints that he may actually be living in one of the computer worlds himself, unable to trust the world around him. The labyrinth of computer worlds makes it impossible to know what--if anything--is reality. We follow Stiller on a mad escape from authorities who may very well be programmed to find and destroy him, as well as nearly every other citizen. As the most wanted man in his world, there seem to be higher powers preventing Stiller from finding the truth.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing sci-fi masterpiece April 2, 2013
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As a film buff, I have had a chance to see a number of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's works. He was clearly a genius and I have enjoyed a majority of the ones I've seen. However, I have never found myself utterly fascinated with any of the films as much as this one, World on a Wire. It helps that I love sci-fi in all its forms, from escapism to more serious works. This definitely falls into the latter category; the film that it strangely most reminds me of is the original Russian version of Solaris (and fans of that film should definitely check this out). It shares a (somewhat) slow pace, cinematography and visuals that are quite striking at times, and a quite serious examination of seriously fascinating material. The story concerns a computer project in which a virtual world, complete with simulated individuals who don't know they're artificial, is created with the aims of predicting trends and needs of the future. One leader of the project starts to have suspicions about the project and uncovers a conspiracy involving it. The main twist of the film will probably be figured out by most viewers before the characters do. However, I think for most viewers this will not hurt the film. For me, even after several viewings, the film retains the fascination that it had the first time I watched it. Most interestingly, the film's ending has become increasingly more intriguing, as my interpretation of it seems to change every time I watch the film. All in all, a must watch for anyone who loves sci-fi of serious ideas.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Scifi classic for film nerds December 1, 2013
By Cole
This movie is awesome. Some scenes feel as though you are watching the actors dance with the camera (particularly in the first part.) The soundtrack is weirdly amazing, consisting of famous licensed classical music with strange, loud 80s synths playing over it. As someone who likes Scifi and is currently quite interested in cinema, this was really worth it.

However, it could be shorter. Most of the movie consists of people not being able to understand that their world may be fake, which is a little bit unrealistic considering the last 200 (at least) years of philosophy. However, the point is made (that many people rely on their emotions for truth and falsities), and Fassbinder rewards us with some awesome scenes. Fassbinder also has the class to not spell everything out at the end.

Personally, I think the first part is better than the second, as it is certainly more stylized, but I would recommend this to any fan of 2001, Solaris, as well as fans of the Science Fiction big 3 plus Philip K. Dick.

Some people have complained about white subtitles on white backgrounds. I never had any trouble with this (watched it on Hulu.)
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