Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s epic 1973 science fiction television film, World On A Wire still packs an impressive gut punch 50 years after it first hit the screen. Fassbinder’s neo-noir is a precursor to The Matrix, a film which blends reality with fiction, technology with nature. Klaus Löwitsch is the businessman who is pulled into a science fiction nightmare when he takes over Cybernetics and Future Science’s top secret computer simulation.
Fassbinder’s two-part German television film doesn’t soft-pedal its plot – you need to dive into its complexity and try to follow its binary code. Although it might be an analogue film, told within the world of computers, it’s well textured and a beautifully presented piece by the German master. This is a perfect example of the type of film which helped to push through the world cinema movement in the 1970s.
World On A Wire‘s impact on The Matrix is evident. It might not have the wire-fu CGI thrill moments, but it raises the same mind-bending, ‘what is reality?’ questions as the Wachowskis’ 1999 actioner. Fassbinder’s film was also remade in 1999 as The Thirteenth Floor, although it met with much less success than the Keanu Reeves starrer.
Three hours is a lot of commitment, but World on A Wire is worth the investment. It’s a wonderfully complex mystery in its own right, but also worth viewing if you want to understand the true origins of The Matrix.