Features — 20 December 2011 » Written by
OCCUPY NOWHERE: <i>World on a Wire</i> Part Two

“The materialists say that ‘Thought is conditioned by Being,’ and not ‘Being is conditioned by Thought,’ and that Being – with its basis in itself – is conditioned by itself.  …But it forgets that without thought, Being is No-Being.  Being comes into Being only when it becomes conscious of itself.  As long as God is content with himself, he is non-existent.  He must be awakened to something that is not himself when he is God.  God is God when God is not God, yet what is not God must be in himself too.  And this – what is not himself – is his own thought or consciousness.  With this consciousness he departs from himself and at the same time returns to himself.  You cannot say that thought is conditioned by being, and that Being has its basis in itself.  You must say that Being is Being because of Thought, which is to say, that Being is Being because Being is not Being.”

“The world starts only when there is a mind which appreciates, a mind critically conscious of itself.” – Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (Living By Zen, 1949)

At the end of part one (literally the last seconds), Fred Stiller is made privy to what a modern audience has likely suspected since Günther Lause’s split-second disappearance and certainly since Stiller’s drive to where “the road wasn’t finished”; that Stiller’s world is a simulation.  This means that Simulacron-3 is actually a sub-basement of reality, and furthermore that a dimension exists above Stiller’s world.  What isn’t clear is precisely how many worlds are wrapped around one another (at the least, three), who is “real” and who is not (who is a Contact and who is merely an identity unit), and whether there is a way to escape the nowhere Stiller finds himself occupying; a nowhere more literally no-where than any other film in the Occupy catalogue for its “existing” in the digital abstract.  Ironically though, Michael Ballhaus’ (The Departed, Quiz Show) cinematography has been asserting the notion of space, surface, dimension, and geometry with every sleek, gliding shot the whole film long.

Stiller’s persistent investigation along the hypothesis of corporate conspiracy, which stems from Vollmer’s death and Lause’s disappearance, takes on the concern of his world’s falsehood in Part Two.  Stiller goes through a full course of emotional states, much like a grieving process as he negotiates a changing perception of reality, addled by a reality that keeps rearranging itself, and shaken by the question of personhood as he may in fact be just an identity unit.  Is this not the same dismay or deflation one might feel about the notion of intelligent design, perceived as an existential challenge against one’s own autonomy and agency rather than an infusion of purpose?  Stiller’s ultimate insistence of his corporeality and intentionality splinters the preconception that personhood is an exclusively biological event.

World on a Wire questions where imitation ends and authenticity begins and posits a common science fiction bent that “something like human consciousness” could aspire to “become consciousness.”  Thus, as Buddhist scholar Daisetz Suzuki discusses in the opening quotation, Consciousness and Being qualify one another.  Suzuki proposes that only through Thought – what he considers necessarily external to the individual’s autopilot existence – does Being quantify into Being (in the full sense of someone able to contemplate their own existence).  Stiller rises from like-consciousness (or rather the no-consciousness of complacency) to consciousness by negation.  He ideologically negates his inclusion in a reality determined to be a simulation.  Thus he is able to differentiate his intent (conscious decision and opinion) from his action (his basic functions as an identity unit).  Though yet to be proved as more than a computer program, Stiller is able to actualize and appraise his own Being-ness by verging against the medium in which he floats.  In the language of Suzuki, Stiller is Stiller because Stiller is not Stiller, meaning that he comes into Being not when he is passively told he is no-being (an identity unit) by his mind-hacked coworker, but when he has proved it actively by unraveling the perceptual veil which aims to perplex him into subjugation.

Suzuki remarks of Zen that, “When we say that we live by Zen” …rather than simply living zen, which all life supposedly does passively…“this means that we become conscious of the fact,” and therefore active.  Relational to Wire, it is Stiller’s achievement of “thought,” that brings him to a critically self-aware state, able to assess, dissect, and contradict Simulacron by degrees.  Even though he verges against the virtual system of which he is a part, it is through that painful effort of consciousness (reflected in his dizzy spells and migraine) that Stiller, who merely lived simulacron, comes to live by simulacron, in a sense.

From that attainment of differentiation, Stiller is able to endeavor towards a kind of transcendence of nowhere, or at least is able to want and to fight for it. It is only with the aid of the much sought-after Contact from the real world – inhabiting Stiller’s world as Professor Vollmer’s daughter Elena Vollmer, who falls in love with Stiller, reveals that there is a less than desirable “real Stiller” and switches their minds at the moment the virtual Stiller is killed – is he able to bring his practice of negation to completion.  Ascended finally to what is presumably the real world, and into corporeal Being, Stiller is as giddy as Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning, elated about his Being and fully aware of it.  Juxtaposed against the bullet-riddled Stiller on the roof of a car, he and Elena hold each other, roll on the floor, kiss, and laugh; which, though starkly opposed to one another, are the first moments of the entire film which feel…real.


OCCUPY NOWHERE: World on a Wire Part One

OCCUPY NOWHERE: Ryunosuke Akutagawa


OCCUPY NOWHERE: A Woman with Red Hair


An introduction to OCCUPY NOWHERE


About Author

Aaron Mannino is a Philadelphia area artist, film enthusiast, and some other things. He has made contributions on film analysis to the publication Korean Quarterly. Visit his blog or his website for writings and art-ings.

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