World on a Wire, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder directs a sort of proto-The Matrix science fiction film (shot for German TV in 1973), as the blurb on the back says. And yes, that’s pretty much it, if you can imagine The Matrix being directed by Fassbinder: i.e. rather than car chases and gun- and flying-martial-arts-based action, the actors stand around talking a lot and occasionally descend into a German cabaret-style demi-monde. But it’s not just The Matrix it seems a forerunner of, but pretty much every sci-fi film about an alternative reality or artificial identity you’ve ever witnessed: Bladerunner, Total Recall, Inception. (On the latter, the scene where the hero descends into the simulation artificial reality they’ve created, and is brought back by some prompt which they create in that reality – surely that’s Inception in its entirety – and the different levels of existence too).

And yet, I don’t think we should credit it with too much. After all, there’s more to sci-fi than films and this reminded me most perhaps of all those Stanislaw Lem stories I’m always reading: the ones which have mad scientists who create machines that believe they’re human-beings. And in some ways – because there’s a lot of talking in it, because it manages one thing which most sci-fi films never do, which is to become obsessed with ideas, just as sci-fi in its book-based medium does, the sense of watching it comes a lot closer to that sense you get from good sci-fi (well, from Lem anyway) of just the sheer volume of clever ideas being thrown at your mind.

Oh, wait a minute! – it seems I’ve only watched half of it. So that cliff-hanger it ended on was merely that, a cliff-hanger before next week’s episode. (I was imagining that 2nd DVD just had some extra features). I suppose I better make another coffee and watch the rest of it.

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