Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Blu-ray Review: World On A Wire (Second Sight)

Based on the novel "Similacrum-3" by Daniel F. Galouye, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "World On A Wire" was broadcast in 1973 by German TV company WDR, in two episodes.
This groundbreaking production anticipated the likes of "Blade Runner", "The Matrix" and Cronenberg's "eXistenZ" to push the envelope in the Sci-Fi genre.
"World On A Wire" concerns a super computer that's being developed by the IKZ company. This computer is partly an electronic simulation machine that creates
an artificial miniature world, populated by over 9,000 units or 'people'. A giant steel corporation discovers this computer can also study and predict consumer
habits and demands for a 20 year period, and takes an active interest in development.
Fred Stiller (Klaus Lowitsch) is assigned to debug the software after Professor Henri Vollmer (Adrian Hoven) dies in mysterious circumstances.
When IKZA chief of security Gunther Lause (Ivan Desmy) literally vanishes into thin air, Stiller finds himself in a shadowy world where people are a bundle
of electrical circuits, and private interests dominate.
The introduction of Vollmer's daughter, Eva (Mascha Rabben); an Achilles and the Tortoise drawing; the name of Christopher Nobody and a parallel world
that may or may not be the 'real' one all add to a thoroughly absorbing 204 minutes.

The general theme of alienation in what may be an artificial world is well conveyed by a marvellous cast who include Barbara Valentin, Margit Carstensen,
Gottfried John, Kurt Raab, Uli Lommel, Ingrid Caven and Eddie Constantine, while the set designs with banks of TV screens and mirrors, which acknowledge and reflect the two
worlds are major parts of a production that was indeed way ahead of its time.
Second Sight's 2 disc Blu-ray presentation sees "World On A Wire" make its UK Home Video debut. The main feature is split over the 2 discs, and image quality
is good with well managed grain and plenty of detail.
The supplementary features being with "Looking Ahead To Today" (48m 31s) by Juliane Lorenz.
This documentary takes a look at how Fassbinder and crew depicted the future; how the TV production deal was realised; Fassbinder's attitude towards
location shooting and how the cast reacted to his ideas.
With valuable contributions from cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, this is a stimulating work that adds further weight to its subject matter.

Observing Fassbinder (7m 44s)
This is a short tribute to photographer Peter Gauhe who was stills photographer on 15 of Fassbinder's projects.
Peter is sadly in the early stages of dementia, but recalls how he started in the industry and learned his craft, and also discusses his relationship with the director
and his own acting roles.

On-Set Featurette (4m 19s)
Fassbinder talks about his TV series and how he got to grips with translating the book.

No Strings Attached: Renate Leiffer On Fassbinder (29m 15s)
Here, Renate talks about her work as an on-set translator; her relationship with the director and exactly what working with WDR meant to them.

Original TV Recap (4m 32s)
A general recap of key events in this production.

The Simulation Argument by Nick Bostrom (22m 38s)
Nick Bostrom from the Future of Humanity Institute at the university of Oxford presents a fascinating talk about simulation civilisations, concerning the future and our place in the world, and how he became interested in the argument.

"World On A Wire" will be released by Second Sight on 18th February, in rigid slipcase packaging.
As an extra special bonus, there's a 50 page perfect-bound booklet (which I haven't seen) featuring new essays from Anton Bitel and Daniel Bird, archival writing
by Daniel Oberhaus and Christian Braad Thomsen and rare on-set photos by Peter Gauhe.
We are lucky enough to have some of the world's finest boutique labels here in the UK, and releases like this confirm we have never had it so good when it comes to the cream of World Cinema in our own homes.