Until the End of the World

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Until the End of the World
Directed byWim Wenders
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Wim Wenders
  • Solveig Dommartin
Music byGraeme Revell
CinematographyRobby Müller
Edited byPeter Przygodda
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • 12 September 1991 (1991-09-12) (Germany)
  • 23 October 1991 (1991-10-23) (France)
  • 25 December 1991 (1991-12-25) (United States)
  • 29 October 1992 (1992-10-29) (Australia)
Running time
158 minutes (US)
179 minutes (Europe)
239 minutes (Japan)
280 minutes (Trilogy Cut)
287 minutes (Director's Cut)
  • Germany
  • France
  • Australia
  • United States
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
Budget$23 million
Box office$752,856

Until the End of the World (French: Jusqu'au bout du monde; German: Bis ans Ende der Welt) is a 1991 French-German science fiction drama film by the German film director Wim Wenders; the screenplay was written by Wenders and Peter Carey, from a story by Wenders and 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.


In late 1999, an orbiting Indian nuclear satellite is out of control and predicted to re-enter the atmosphere, threatening unknown populated areas of the Earth. Mass populations trying to flee the likely impact sites cause a worldwide panic. Caught in a traffic jam and suffering from boredom, Claire Tourneur escapes the highway congestion by taking a side road. When she gets into a car crash with a pair of bank robbers, they enlist her to carry their stolen cash to Paris. Along the way, she meets a man being pursued by an armed party who introduces himself as Trevor McPhee, and allows him to travel to Paris with her. After reaching the house of her estranged lover, Eugene, Claire discovers that Trevor has stolen some of the money.

Claire then travels to Berlin and hires missing persons detective Phillip Winter to help her find Trevor through tracking his passport and credit card—he agrees to help when he finds out Trevor has a substantial bounty on his head. However, when Claire meets Trevor for lunch, she betrays Winter and attempts to escape with Trevor. Winter catches the two having sex in a motel room, after which Trevor handcuffs them to the bed and escapes with more of Claire's money. Winter, Claire and Eugene meet in Moscow to continue the search, and find out from Moscow bounty hunters that Trevor is actually Sam Farber, wanted for stealing the prototype of a secret research project. Multiple government agencies and freelance bounty hunters are chasing him to recover the device. Winter quits the job, intimidated by the even larger bounty on Sam's head, but Eugene buys a tracking computer to help Claire. However, when the computer finds Sam's location, she leaves Eugene while she thinks he is sleeping.

Following Sam on the Trans-Siberian Railway, she travels through China and reaches Japan, where she rescues Winter from a botched capture attempt at a capsule hotel. She finds Sam at a pachinko parlor rapidly losing his eyesight, and buys them train tickets to a random mountain inn. There, Sam reveals that the stolen prototype belongs to his father, Henry Farber and is a device for recording and translating brain impulses. He has been recording places and people around the world for his blind mother, Edith, but the recordings are exhausting his eyes. After the innkeeper heals Sam's eyes, he and Claire fly to San Francisco to take more recordings before heading to the Australian outback, where his father's laboratory is located.

Eugene, who had traveled to Japan only to be abandoned by Claire once again, teams up with Winter to capture Sam. Along with the bank robbers, they travel to Central Australia, but Eugene fights Sam upon finding him, causing both to get arrested. When Winter bails them out, they discover that the bag containing the camera was taken from Claire while she was drugged with sleeping pills. However, the bag also contains the original tracker attached to Claire's bank money, which the bank robbers can trace. Claire and Sam take off in a small airplane to retrieve the camera.

When the Indian nuclear satellite is shot down by the US government, the resulting NEMP effect wipes out all unshielded electronics worldwide. Claire and Sam are forced to land the plane when the engine quits. They walk across the desert until they find the camera with the bounty hunter Burt. Reuniting with Eugene, Winter and the bank robbers, they travel in hand-cranked diesel-powered jeeps to the lab, which is sheltered in a massive cave.

Henry tries to synchronize the camera with Sam's memory in order to transmit clean images to Edith's brain, but Sam is injured and too tired to perform well. After father and son come to blows, Claire tries the experiment with her recordings to phenomenal success. It is revealed that Henry wishes to apply the technology to dream retrieval in order to win a Nobel Prize. However, Henry pushes too hard and Edith eventually dies of exhaustion. Eugene's writer's block seems to have been cured and he begins composing on an antique typewriter.

After Edith's death, Henry begins working on how to record human dreams. The Aborigines disagree with his goals and abandon him, so he experiments on himself, Claire, and Sam. They eventually become addicted to viewing their dreams on portable video screens. Eugene finds Claire curled up in a rock crevasse with her screen and takes her back to the village, driving her into painful withdrawal when he refuses to replace the batteries for her screen. He finishes the novel about her adventure and gives it to her, curing her of "the disease of images." Meanwhile, Sam wanders into the rocky desert labyrinths with his own screen and is ultimately rescued by the Aborigines. Henry is taken by the CIA while lying in the laboratory's dream-recording chair. Eugene and Claire leave the village together but break up for good. Later, Claire becomes an astronaut and spends her 30th birthday as an ecological observer, orbiting in a space station. Eugene, Winter and the bank robbers celebrate with her by singing "Happy Birthday" over a video fax.



Wenders began working on the film as early as 1977. Although the film may seem to be a literary adaptation, the story was conceived originally by Wim Wenders and Solveig Dommartin. In addition to fleshing out the complex plot, pre-production was also involved extensive still photography. It was not until Wim Wenders found commercial success with Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas (film), however, that he was able to secure funding for the project. With around 22 million dollars worth of funding, more than he had spent on all of his previous films combined, Wenders set off on an ambitious production. Principal photography lasted 22 weeks and spanned 11 countries.[1]

The Australian Film Finance Corporation invested $3.7 million in the film.[2]

Wenders, who had a long standing fascination with the Australian Outback, decided to shoot the film in and around Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia.[3]


Until the End of the World was poorly received in its first release, and was both a critical and commercial failure. In the United States, the film was released by Warner Bros. in December 1991, and was on a small number of screens with almost no advertising. The U.S. box office grossed $752,856.

In January 1992, Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of 4, describing the film as lacking a "narrative urgency" required to sustain interest in the story and that it furthermore "plays like a film that was photographed before it was written, and edited before it was completed". A documentary about the globe-trekking production would have likely been more interesting than the film itself, he said.[4]

Over time, the film received an important critic reevaluation.[citation needed] It currently holds an 88% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.


Many versions of the film have been commercially distributed or publicly screened. Wenders was contractually obligated to deliver a standard feature-length film. While he supposedly started with a rough-cut as a long as 20 hours, he was able to edit this into the 158 and 179 minute American and European cuts. Wenders referred to these as the "Reader's Digest" versions of the film. Over the next decade, he would work on a 5-hour version of the film and screen it at events across the country. These screenings featured his own print of the film and were usually attended by the director. A version similar to that shown at these screenings was released as a 280-minute trilogy.[5]

A 295-minute director's cut began touring US art house theaters in late 2015 along with remasters of most of Wenders' feature-length films. This version has an intermission at 2 hours, 15 minutes.[6] This version debuted on home media in the U.S. on Turner Classic Movies on July 24, 2017.

Still more versions of the film exist. There is a 239-minute letter-boxed and subtitled laserdisc release from Japan (PILF-7271) as well as several unofficial fan edits that combine portions of the aforementioned releases.[7]

On September 16, 2019, The Criterion Collection announced their special edition Blu-ray and DVD of the film, and features a 4K restoration of Wim Wenders' preferred 287-minute Director's Cut commissioned by the Wim Wenders Foundation and supervised by Wim. It will be released on home video for the first time in the U.S. on December 10, 2019.[8][9]


Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack Until The End of the World was released December 1991, and includes the following tracks:

  1. "Opening Title" – Graeme Revell
  2. "Sax And Violins" – Talking Heads
  3. "Summer Kisses, Winter Tears" – Julee Cruise
  4. "Move with Me (Dub)" – Neneh Cherry
  5. "The Adversary" – Crime & the City Solution
  6. "What's Good" – Lou Reed
  7. "Last Night Sleep" – Can
  8. "Fretless" – R.E.M.
  9. "Days" – Elvis Costello
  10. "Claire's Theme" – Graeme Revell
  11. "(I'll Love You) Till The End Of The World" – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  12. "It Takes Time" – Patti Smith (With Fred Smith)
  13. "Death's Door" – Depeche Mode
  14. "Love Theme" – Graeme Revell
  15. "Calling All Angels" (Remix Version) – Jane Siberry with k.d. lang
  16. "Humans from Earth" – T-Bone Burnett
  17. "Sleeping in the Devil's Bed" – Daniel Lanois
  18. "Until the End of the World" – U2
  19. "Finale" – Graeme Revell

Two additional songs were used in the film, but were not included on the soundtrack:

  • "Blood of Eden", written and performed by Peter Gabriel; a different version, which features Sinead O'Connor, appears on his 1992 album Us, and was released as a single. The version in the film is only available on the CD single for the version released on Us.
  • "Breakin' the Rules", written and performed by Robbie Robertson, also released on Robertson's album Storyville.

The German film director Uli M Schueppel made a documentary film about the recording of "(I'll Love You) Till The End Of The World" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The film was released 1990 as The Song and re-released 2004 under a new arrangement.


  1. ^ Wenders, Wim; Hagen, Charles (1991). "FROM THE END OF THE WORLD TO SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE: An Interview with Wim Wenders". Aperture. 123 (Spring 1991): 90–91. JSTOR 24472429.
  2. ^ Bob Evans, "Our Piece of the Action", The Australian Financial Review, 18 October 1991, p. 33
  3. ^ "14 films coming to Australia from the Toronto Film Festival". SBS (Australia). 25 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (17 January 1992). "Until the End of the World Movie Review (1992)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  5. ^ Hortn, Robert (1997). "Wim Wenders: On the Road Again". Film Comment. 33 (2): 3–7. JSTOR 43455258.
  6. ^ "Until the End of the World: Director's Cut". IFCcenter.com. 17 September 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Until the End of the World (Bis ans Ende der Welt) (1991) (Uncut) [PILF-7271]". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  8. ^ Criterion Collection [@Criterion] (16 September 2019). "✨Announcing our DECEMBER 2019 releases! bit.ly/CriterionDecember19✨" (Tweet). Retrieved 18 September 2019 – via Twitter.
  9. ^ "Until the End of the World". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 18 September 2019.

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