World on a Wire


You can’t spend years feeding data into a computer that allows for the simulation of every aspect of human behavior without asking yourself if it might lead to the creation of something resembling human consciousness. –Franz Hahn

A 1973 made for German TV movie directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, World on a Wire follows the story of  Fred Stiller, a software engineer who’s a bit more hard boiled than one usually associates with that career field.  Then again, it was 1973, so who knew what a software engineer was supposed to be like back then, right?

Criterion calls World on a Wire “the Matrix before the Matrix,” but it’s really more like the existential angst edition of the Sims.  Whereas the Matrix reveals its central conceit to setup an action movie, World on a Wire is about exploring the idea. Consequently, it build much more slowly, and whereas Neo must face a grim reality that lies beneath the facade, Fred must face the harsh truth of there being nothing but facade.

What I liked about it:

This one makes two of my best of lists: Best Made for TV Movies and Best Science-Fiction movies.  I can’t imagine anything like this ever being green lit for a US audience, much less in the early 70s. It’s incredibly prescient, and avant garde without being inaccessible. Recommended.



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