Until the End of the World

Until the End of the World

Infobox Film
name = Until the End of the World

imdb_id = 0101458
writer = Wim Wenders (also story)
Peter Carey
Solveig Dommartin (story)
starring = Solveig Dommartin
William Hurt
Sam Neill
Max von Sydow
Jeanne Moreau
Rüdiger Vogler
Ernie Dingo
Lois Chiles
director = Wim Wenders
cinematography = Robby Müller
producer = Ulrich Felsberg
Jonathan Taplin
distributor = Warner Brothers (United States)
released = December 25 1991
runtime = 158 minutes (theatrical cut), 179 minutes ("European cut"), 280 minutes (director's cut)
language = English, French
music = Graeme Revell (original score)
awards =
budget = $23,000,000 (est.)

"Until the End of the World" ( _de. Bis ans Ende der Welt) is a 1991 film by the German film director Wim Wenders; the screenplay was written by Wenders and Peter Carey, from a story by Wenders and the late Solveig Dommartin. An initial draft of the screenplay was written by American filmmaker Michael Almereyda. Wenders, whose career had been distinguished by his mastery of the road movie, had intended this as the Ultimate Road Movie.


The film takes place in late 1999; there is an out of control nuclear satellite in orbit that is apt to reenter the atmosphere at any time, contaminating large areas of the earth. This has caused an increasing degree of disorder, with large numbers fleeing the likely impact sites. Amidst a traffic jam, the impatient and disconnected Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) escapes the congestion by driving off the highway, is told by her Dashboard Computer System that she has left the Map Zone Database and is on her own, and subsequently has a couple of odd encounters: first with a pair of bank robbers (which leaves her in possession of a large amount of cash and a promised cut of it), and then with a hitchhiker who is apparently being pursued by at least one armed party. Claire eventually discovers, after falling in love with the enigmatic fugitive, that he is the son of a scientist (played by Max von Sydow), and he has absconded with the working prototype from a secret research project. Multiple government agencies and some freelance bounty hunters are attempting to recover it.

The prototype is a device for recording and translating brain impulses—a camera for the blind—and her hitchhiker is travelling the world, filming his widely scattered family to show footage of them to his blind mother (Jeanne Moreau). The chase continues around the world, the nuclear satellite is shot down, causing an EMP effect that wipes out all unshielded electronics worldwide, and the characters wind up in a hidden cave in the Australian Outback, where the recordings are played back. After the death of the hitchhiker's mother, his scientist father discovers a way to use the device to record human dreams. Several of the central characters become addicted to viewing the playback of their own dreams, while Claire's estranged lover, a novelist, remains unaffected while he works on a novel about the adventure. It is this novel, ultimately, that rescues Claire from the throes of her addiction via the power of words.

Production, distribution, and reception

Over a decade in the making and developed partly from a series of discussions Wenders had with French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (whose own 1980 film "Deathwatch" shares similar themes), "Until the End of the World" is Wenders' most ambitious film. Filmed in 15 cities across seven countries on four of the seven continents, it had a budget of approximately $23 million and was originally intended to be shot on 70 mm and conclude its production and narrative in the African Congo, although available finances deemed these feats unfeasible. Wenders was also not granted clearance to film in China. As a solution, Wenders sent the film's star, Solveig Dommartin (his then-girlfriend), into China with a handheld digital camera, after principal photography wrapped. This footage is presented in the film as a "video fax" that Claire sends her estranged lover Gene subsequent to her trip across the Chinese mainland.

During post-production, Wenders had initially assembled a cut that exceeded eight hours in length. Contractual agreements bound Wenders to deliver an answer print not exceeding three hours in length. The final product as distributed in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere was 158 minutes.

To add to the (then) near-future look, at least one company, Sony, contributed prototypes of some of their planned new products for use in the film. The soundtrack is notable for Wenders asking various recording artists—Depeche Mode, U2, R.E.M., Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Jane Siberry, etc.—for music to be used in the film; specifically for the music that they thought they would be making in 1999. The soundtrack itself was more successful than the film, and is generally regarded as one of the most important motion picture soundtracks of the 1990s.

"Until the End of the World" was poorly received in its initial theatrical release, emerging both a critical and commercial failure. In the United States, the film was released by Warner Bros. on December 25 1991 (in New York and Los Angeles, later expanding to other cities), and played on a small number of screens aided by almost no commercial advertising. At the U.S. box office, it grossed $752,856 and was generally panned by critics, although some did favorably review it (including Hal Hinson, of "The Washington Post", and Vincent Canby of "The New York Times"). Critical reception was lukewarm in Europe and other markets as well. Wenders has subsequently disdained this version of his film, calling it the "Reader's Digest Version."

Director's cut

Wenders apparently foresaw his struggles with acceptable running time and kept the original elements rather than surrendering them to distributors. After the film's theatrical release, Wenders worked with internegative copies and, with the cooperation of Sam Neill, who recorded additional narration, completed a 280-minute version of the film. The 280-minute cut, which Wenders regards as the definitive and complete version of "Until the End of the World", unfolds as a trilogy and is presented in three parts (the opening titles appear three times). This version of the film has been screened publicly numerous times, including U.S. screenings at the University of Washington in 1996; at least two presentations at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, by way of American Cinematheque; once at the DGA Theater in New York City, by way of the American Museum of the Moving Image; once at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas; once at the Walter Reade Theater, by way of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in New York City; and once at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY. Wenders has been present at all of these screenings but the USA Film Festival screening and the Walter Reade Theater screening.

The 158-minute theatrical cut of "Until the End of the World" was released on VHS and laserdisc (widescreen) in the United States. In addition, a 179-minute "European cut" was released on laserdisc (letterboxed) in Japan, accompanied by a 58-minute featurette shot in Tokyo entitled "Dream Island" by Sean Naughton, who had worked with Wenders on the HD sequences in "Until the End of the World". The 280-minute "trilogy" version of "Until the End of the World" made its first DVD appearance in 2004, with an Italian 4-disc edition featuring outtakes, bloopers, trailers, and interviews with Wenders. In 2005, a 3-disc DVD edition was released in Germany. Both editions feature new digital transfers that were personally supervised by Wenders.

Anchor Bay Entertainment had once announced that it would be releasing the director's cut of "Until the End of the World" in North America, but has since switched hands and abandoned interest in Wenders' catalogue. Currently, there are no known plans to release the film on DVD in North America.


* Solveig Dommartin - Claire Tourneur
* Pietro Falcone - Mario
* Enzo Turrin - Doctor
* Chick Ortega - Chico Remy
* Eddy Mitchell - Raymond Monnet
* William Hurt - Sam Farber, alias Trevor McPhee
* Adelle Lutz - Makiko
* Ernie Dingo - Burt
* David Gulpilil - David
* Jimmy Little - Peter
* Jean-Charles Dumay - Mechanic
* Sam Neill - Eugene Fitzpatrick
* Ernest Berk - Anton Farber
* Christine Osterlein - Irina Farber
* Rüdiger Vogler - Philip Winter
* Diogo Dória - Receptionist
* David Byrne - Himself in music video (uncredited)
* Tom Waits - Himself/Singer in bar (uncredited)
* Max von Sydow - Henry Farber
* Jeanne Moreau - Edith Farber

External links

* [http://www.wim-wenders.com/movies/movies_spec/untiltheendoftheworld/untiltheendoftheworld.htm Official website]
* [http://www.panix.com/~archii/uteotw/ Until the End of the World tribute site]
* [http://www.imagesjournal.com/issue01/features/uteotw.htm Article on the imagery in the film]
*imdb title | id=0101458
* [http://colsearch.nfsa.afc.gov.au/nfsa/search/display/display.w3p;adv=yes;group=;groupequals=;holdingType=;page=0;parentid=;query=Number%3A401644;querytype=;rec=0;resCount=10 Until the End of the World at the National Film and Sound Archive]
* [http://hastaelfindelmundo.blogdiario.com/ Tribute to Solveig Dommartin]

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