World on a Wire ★★★★½

This is essentially the arthouse Matrix. It's a dystopian tech-noir about becoming lost in a virtual reality. Only instead of convoluted and spectacular fight scenes you have a lot of philosophical monologues. And honestly it covers more philosophical ideas than almost any film I've seen.

This thing covers fundamental ontological questions about the nature of reality and being (Fred even brings up the analogy of the cave as he's slowly beginning to doubt the world around him), it heavily predicts Baudrillard's theory of modernity being akin to a simulated reality where all symbols are reduced to spectacle and are alienated from reality, it has strong Heideggerrian themes of modern man's relationship with technics becoming rootless and overwhelming him, etc.

There are countless ways to interpret this film but I think what's most impressive is the way in which these incredibly complex philosophical themes are explored whilst the film is fundamentally thrilling and demanding of attention. This is partly due to Klaus Löwitsch's captivating performance as Fred. He also very strongly resembles Jack Nicholson, particularly him in Chinatown so that can only help.

Also Fassbinder's sweeping direction in this film is just awe-inspiring. It feels as though every scene has a creative angle to it, whether that be the camera following characters from a low and wide shot or whether it be a creeping closeup during a tense conversation. Fassbinder is always doing something creative with his direction here, and for the most part it strongly enhances the tech-noir atmosphere, and the creeping mystery of the reality of Fred's existence.

Also the aesthetic of the film is wonderful. It's refreshing that the nocturnal neon vibe of Blade Runner or the general cyberpunk / central Tokyo worship so common in dystopian tech thrillers is absent here. Instead the aesthetic is very clear and almost calming. There's a huge use of faded colors like light blue and a lot of white or just glass architecture. It's one of the films greatest strengths in that it reminds us that the technocratic dystopia we could be wandering into will not be paved by dark malevolent corridors analogous to the Robot Devil's Hell from Futurama.

Instead it is far more likely we will be invited into technological servitude through deliciously accessible gadgets and additions to life to make it far easier and more comfortable. And like Fred, after we're deeply entrenched in this Fukayamian end of history, and we've essentially become lulled and fryed into a state of a human vegetable, only then will we realize we are living in Hell. And that will be too late.