World on a Wire

Entering the simulation

World on a Wire (Welt am Draht) is German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s only stab at sci-fi, an epic 3.5-hour behemoth, originally shown on TV in two parts, and which starts as Fassbinder means it to go on, setting up questions about what we’re seeing in front of us. The opening shot is done on a lens so long it causes an atmospheric shimmer. The picture wobbles just a touch, as if we’re looking through a heat haze. When the people we’re seeing start speaking, their voices have the dead flat ambience of a dubbing studio. So much for atmosphere – we’re disconnected from these people, businessmen out on the street and entering … Read more

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Petra on her shagpile carpet

Though he had 40+ films to his name when he died in 1982 aged 37, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s roots lay in the theatre and it often showed. They’re clearly visible in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, a film playing out on one set where a handful of actors perform in a theatrical “back of the room” style. The action, what little of it there is, takes place in and around the bed of Petra von Kant (Margit Carstensen), a massively entitled fashion designer attended by an entirely silent aide, Marlene (Irm Hermann). As Marlene brings coffee, cake, champagne, opens doors to let people in and out, types letters and between times … Read more