Best wishes to the “Wet, Hot Wife”
Renowned director of New German Cinema, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, was an insanely prolific filmmaker. In fifteen short years he shot 40(!) feature length films, all the while working on multiple projects in theater, radio, TV, and acting in his, and others, films, not to mention that he performed manifold duties on most of these sets. As the saying goes, “the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”
Even in such an enormous body of work, “Welt am Draht” stands out. Based on Daniel F. Galouye’s novel, “Simulacron-3”, “Welt am Draht” is Fassbinder’s only foray into the world of Sci-Fi. Originally aired on German television in 1973 in two-parts, the film was largely unavailable for many years, existing solely on bootleg copies, until it was screened in 2010 at The Berlin International Film Festival.
That being said, I was still surprised that I was previously unaware of the film’s existence. Obscure, dystopian sci-fi is my shit! Plus it’s Fassbinder! Plus it’s shot in France, during an awesome moment in design, style and fashion! Plus Terry Gilliam did a total homage shot to it in his greatest film, “Brazil”! Needless to say, yeah, I dug it.
Without going into too much of a synopsis, the film deals with some fairly common Sci-Fi themes: questionable applications of technology, nature of reality, reliability of senses/memory, distrust of government and corporations, and general paranoia caused by all of the above. It’s a world within a world scenario. In the “above” world, The Institute for Cybernetics and Future Science (IKZ) is developing a super computer program to create a fully functioning simulated reality of 9,000 people, or “identity units”, for the “below” world. Our protagonist, Dr. Fred Stiller, has, due to the death of the previous programmer, just taken over control of the program…
Initially things are going well for Stiller, a promotion, new car, apartment, etc., but things begin to quickly unravel as questions mount and he goes further down the rabbit hole. Think of Stiller as Blade Runner’s, Rick Deckard, if he were more interested in answering questions than retiring replicants. In fact Stiller makes Deckard’s internal dilemma manifest. Oddly enough, though the basis for “Blade Runner”, Philip K. Dick’s, “Do Androids Dreams Of Electric Sheep”, was released four years after “Simulacron-3”, Philip K Dick released a novel called “The Simulacra” in the same year as “Simulacron-3”, 1964. (Simulacronicity?).
Being that this is a blog and not an assignment, I’m going to wrap it up with this… the performances are excellent across the board, Fassbinder’s direction taut and tense, his use of mirrors being particularly symbolic. I look forward to a second viewing soon.
“this is above and that’s below, or how much deeper does it go?” -siskins