Virtual personalities created not with DNA but microprocessors, electronic impulses that think…therefore they are. Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s brave new world projects an eerie synchronicity ripe with casual sexuality, abusive power, and a murder mystery that suspends cause and effect, relegating the physical medium to a world of ideas. Reality becomes something that may not be trusted or believed but is still just as deadly.
After the strange death of Professor Vollmer, the scientist who designed a complex computer program in which simulacrums live electric lives (and dream of electric sheep too, I suppose), Dr. Stiller assumes his predecessor’s role and soon becomes subsumed by mysterious happenstance. When Gunter Lause, the head of Corporate Security, disappears and is erased from reality, Stiller is haunted by a residual memory and seeks the answer to a question he has yet to discover.
Fassbinder’s plot merges mystery, action, and science-fiction genres to create a noirish melodrama enriched with intelligentsia, examining the world of perceptions and the impotence of free will. It is also a condemnation of Capitalistic greed where human beings are reduced to binary codes, all for the sake of market research to prophecy future trends. Fassbinder uses long takes and slow tracking shots, allowing each scene to linger dreamlike upon the screen, to imprint upon the retina, while the soundtrack pulsates with eerie tension. This allows the film to become unsettling as nothing is what it seems, but everything is as it appears, and this perceptive contradiction alludes to a narrative vertigo without tech-talk exposition.
Dr. Stiller asks the great questions to life: Who are we? Why are we here? Is there personality after death? But he doesn’t like the answers.
Final Grade: (B+)