Until the End of the World
|Until the End of the World|
|Directed by||Wim Wenders|
|Produced by||Ulrich Felsberg
|Screenplay by||Wim Wenders
|Story by||Wim Wenders
|Music by||Graeme Revell (original score)|
|Edited by||Peter Przygodda|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.
|158 minutes (theatrical cut)
179 minutes (European cut)
295 minutes (director's cut)
Until the End of the World (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 ennui, Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) 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 (William Hurt), and allows him to travel to Paris with her. After reaching the house of her estranged lover and novelist, Eugene (Sam Neill), Claire discovers that Trevor has stolen some of the money.
Claire then travels to Berlin and hires missing persons detective Phillip Winter (Rüdiger Vogler) 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 making love 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 (Max von Sydow) and is a device for recording and translating brain impulses—a camera for the blind. He has been recording places and people around the world for his blind mother, Edith (Jeanne Moreau), 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.
Eugene, who had travelled to Japan only to be abandoned by Claire once again, teams up with Winter to capture Sam. They along with the original bank robbers travel to Central Australia, but Eugene fights Sam upon finding him, causing both to get arrested. When Winter bails them out of jail, 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 Nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NEMP) effect wipes out all unshielded electronics worldwide. Claire and Sam are forced to land the plane when the engine quits due to the NEMP. The pair walk across the Australian desert until they find the camera with the bounty hunter Burt (Ernie Dingo) and other members of the Aboriginal family that the Farbers had been adopted into when Henry set up his lab on their territory. 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 glued to 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 (which is also the narration for the film) 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.
- 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
- Justine Saunders – Maisie
- Chishu Ryu - Mori
- Kuniko Miyake - Mori's wife
- Naoto Takenaka
- Miwako Fujitani
Production, distribution, and reception
Over a decade in the making and developed after a series of discussions Wenders had with French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, Until the End of the World is Wenders' most ambitious film. Filmed in 15 cities in seven countries across four continents, it had a $23 million budget and was originally intended to be shot on 70 mm. The plan was to finish the film in Congo, though financing made that unfeasible. Wenders also couldn't get clearance to film in China. He instead sent the star, Solveig Dommartin (his then-girlfriend), into China with a handheld digital camera. This footage is in the film as a "video fax" that Claire sends her estranged lover Gene.
The Australian Film Finance Corporation invested $3.7 million in the film.
During post-production, Wenders initially had a cut over eight hours in length. Contract agreements forced Wenders to cut down the movie to less than three hours. The final product was distributed with a running time of 158 minutes. Wenders calls this cut of his film the "Reader's Digest Version."
To add to the near-future look, Sony contributed prototypes of their new products for the film. The soundtrack is notable for Wenders asking various recording artists—Depeche Mode, U2, R.E.M., Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Can, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, 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 considered one of the most important movie soundtracks of the 1990s.
Until the End of the World was poorly received in its first release, as 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 and was mostly panned by critics, although some did give it favorable reviews. In January 1992, Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of a possible, 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, according to Ebert. Critical reception was lukewarm elsewhere as well.
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Wenders realized the film would be too long for the commercial distribution, so he kept control of the unedited film rather than surrendering it to distributors. After the film's theatrical release, Wenders worked with multiple copies and, with Sam Neill, recording additional narration, completed a 288-minute version. The longer cut, which Wenders regards as the definitive version of the film, unfolds as a trilogy and is presented in three parts (the titles appear three different times). This version was screened publicly numerous times, including at the University of Washington in 1996; at least two presentations by American Cinematheque; once by the American Museum of the Moving Image; at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, Texas; by 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 almost all of these screenings.
The 158-minute cut of Until the End of the World was released on VHS, laserdisc (widescreen) and, more recently, Amazon Video 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 personally supervised by Wenders.
Anchor Bay Entertainment had announced that it would be releasing the director's cut of Until the End of the World in North America, but has since changed ownership. The Wim Wenders Foundation confirmed on Facebook that The Criterion Collection would be releasing the director's cut.
A 295-minute "Directors" modified slightly from the 1996 version began touring US art house theaters in Fall, 2015 along with remasters of most of Wenders feature-length films. This version has an intermission at 2 hours, 15 minutes into the film.
Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack Until The End of the World was released January 1991, and includes the following tracks:
- "Opening Title" – Graeme Revell
- "Sax And Violins" – Talking Heads
- "Summer Kisses, Winter Tears" – Julee Cruise
- "Move with Me (Dub)" – Neneh Cherry
- "The Adversary" – Crime & the City Solution
- "What's Good" – Lou Reed
- "Last Night Sleep" – Can
- "Fretless" – R.E.M.
- "Days" – Elvis Costello
- "Claire's Theme" – Graeme Revell
- "(I'll Love You) Till The End Of The World" – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
- "It Takes Time" – Patti Smith (With Fred Smith)
- "Death's Door" – Depeche Mode
- "Love Theme" – Graeme Revell
- "Calling All Angels" (Remix Version) – Jane Siberry with k.d. lang
- "Humans from Earth" – T-Bone Burnett
- "Sleeping in the Devil's Bed" – Daniel Lanois
- "Until the End of the World" – U2
- "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.
- Janus Films (13 August 2015). "Janus Films - Timeline Photos". Facebook. Facebook. Retrieved 14 August 2015.[unreliable source?]
- Bob Evans, "OUR PIECE OF THE ACTION", The Australian Financial Review, 18 October 1991, p. 33