Until the End of the World


2h 38m 1991
Until the End of the World

Brief Synopsis

Two fugitives run off with a machine that records dreams.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bis ans Ende der Welt, Jusqu'au bout du monde
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
Comedy
Crime
Foreign
Romance
Release Date
1991
Distribution Company
WARNER BROS. PICTURES DISTRIBUTION (WBPD)
Location
Moscow, Soviet Union; Brisbane, Australia; Berlin, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; Lisbon, Portugal; Sydney, Australia; Venice, Italy; Beijing, China; Paris, France; San Francisco, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 38m

Synopsis

The story, set during 1999 when a runaway nuclear-armed satellite threatens to destroy the world, centers on a woman following a mysterious man who is busy returing his father's valuable invention: namely a device that takes photos which blind people can see.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bis ans Ende der Welt, Jusqu'au bout du monde
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
Comedy
Crime
Foreign
Romance
Release Date
1991
Distribution Company
WARNER BROS. PICTURES DISTRIBUTION (WBPD)
Location
Moscow, Soviet Union; Brisbane, Australia; Berlin, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; Lisbon, Portugal; Sydney, Australia; Venice, Italy; Beijing, China; Paris, France; San Francisco, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 38m

Articles

Until the End of the World


It comes to many a successful filmmaker - the urge to make The Mega-Movie, the definitive film-to-beat-all-films, the one cinematic work that will raise the ceiling, light up the sky, change the way people see the world. These are films - from D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) and beyond - conceived not as blockbusters but as demigod-like statements of art that look to explode our notions of what a movie can be and do. In retrospect, the films are often thought of as grand follies, whether or not they turn out to be masterpieces or disasters - and often, one cinephile's folly disaster is another's harebrained masterpiece. Here, rules are broken not with a hammer but with a wrecking ball, and the films' excesses are their own rationale, and their own reward.

Grand follies are not much in fashion anymore, and in fact the quasi-genre's last genuine gasp may have been Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991). Conceived, by a filmmaker who built his New German Cinema reputation in the '70s on existentialist road movies, as "the ultimate road movie," Wenders' film was a famously global project, shooting in 15 cities in seven countries on four continents (adding local crews to his core unit as he went), in essence crafting the filming process as its own kind of epic road movie. Unsurprisingly, Wenders' initial cut ran close to eight hours - why should such a headlong, intemperate creative jag turn reasonable in the editing room? - until being finally released in a 158-minute version Wenders hated. It died a box-office and critical death, and remained in the movie-mad ether mainly as a rumor of a director's cut running almost five hours - which finally arrived in 2014.

Whether you're watching the trimmed or the flagrantly indulgent version of the film, Wenders' nutty, perambulating narrative (co-written with star and muse Solveig Dommartin) hardly ever makes for what is often thought of as a "normal" movie. It is, in fact, a larky, whimsical, meandering monster, a science-fiction film with almost no genre stuff, a road movie without a destination, a conscientious portrait of the late 20th century that resists realism and resolves instead into a portrait of the filmmaker, his passions and indulgences and loves. You either love it or hate it exactly because of all that.

Set on the ostensibly apocalyptic edge of the century's turn, in 1999, the movie begins with the news that an Indian satellite has gone rogue and will crash-land somewhere on Earth. As disaster scenarios go, this is pretty small-bore, but it incites a mild panic, for all except Claire (Dommartin), a roving damsel of no particular profession, who the narration informs us is lovable, enviable, free-spirited and magnetic (none of which the rather dull Dommartin is to any great degree). Serendipity starts to strike, first with a car crash on an empty European highway with a pair of bumbling bank robbers (Chick Ortega and Eddy Mitchell), who entrust her with smuggling their multi-denominational bag of loot to Paris. She's heading back to her sometimes-lover/aspiring novelist Gene (Sam Neill), but along the way bumbles across the path of Trevor McPhee (William Hurt), a mystery man in a fedora who's being hunted by an assassin, and who's on a globetrotting mission involving virtual reality and his own dying mother (Jeanne Moreau).

The falling satellite (and its electromagnetic discharges), the U.S. intelligence apparatus, the discovered (and addictive) ability to record one's own dreams, dangling love affairs, and unresolved father-son issues all figure into the mix, from Italy to France to the U.S. to Japan to Australia. But the reigning sense of the film is of Wenders' distinct movie sensibility: in this, and many other films, Wenders has maintained an undying ardor for road movie iconography, rock 'n roll on the radio, lowdown American roadhouses, jukeboxes, mid-century outsider nostalgia, and plain old hanging out, preferably in a desert bar with rockabilly playing somewhere and a T-bird parked outside. (The film's famous soundtrack, which did all the business the film did not, includes then-new songs by U2, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, etc.) It's his vision of life as it should be lived in movies, and in this film, the story doesn't move forward logically so much as it just... hangs out. Characters loiter and dally, and happily make their world out of random hotel rooms, airports and building lobbies. Like the wanderings of a genuine outlaw or drop-out nomad, the movie's movement from location to location is immersed in the interstitial moments, and luxuriates in the feeling of being between places, or nowhere at all.

This is Wenders at his most Wendersian, in either high or maximum dosage depending on which version of Until the End of the World you settle down to, and either you are seduced by this alternative vibe, which can deliberately feel as though the movie's making itself up as it goes, or you're not. Wenders doesn't make many concessions for viewers that aren't; no one invests years in a grand folly like this worrying about conventional audience satisfaction, and Wenders was all in, betting the bank of his career, which was flush after the arthouse hits Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987), on this loopy walkabout. After that, for the last few decades, his films and budgets grew smaller and less ambitious, focusing on smaller desperate-outsider dramas and music documentaries. In real world terms, the megalomaniac gamble of Until the End of the World did not succeed - but then, grand follies never do. Even when the results are unanimously beloved, life for the artist after The Mega-Movie is almost necessarily a tamer wager on far smaller stakes.

By Michael Atkinson
Until The End Of The World

Until the End of the World

It comes to many a successful filmmaker - the urge to make The Mega-Movie, the definitive film-to-beat-all-films, the one cinematic work that will raise the ceiling, light up the sky, change the way people see the world. These are films - from D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) and beyond - conceived not as blockbusters but as demigod-like statements of art that look to explode our notions of what a movie can be and do. In retrospect, the films are often thought of as grand follies, whether or not they turn out to be masterpieces or disasters - and often, one cinephile's folly disaster is another's harebrained masterpiece. Here, rules are broken not with a hammer but with a wrecking ball, and the films' excesses are their own rationale, and their own reward. Grand follies are not much in fashion anymore, and in fact the quasi-genre's last genuine gasp may have been Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991). Conceived, by a filmmaker who built his New German Cinema reputation in the '70s on existentialist road movies, as "the ultimate road movie," Wenders' film was a famously global project, shooting in 15 cities in seven countries on four continents (adding local crews to his core unit as he went), in essence crafting the filming process as its own kind of epic road movie. Unsurprisingly, Wenders' initial cut ran close to eight hours - why should such a headlong, intemperate creative jag turn reasonable in the editing room? - until being finally released in a 158-minute version Wenders hated. It died a box-office and critical death, and remained in the movie-mad ether mainly as a rumor of a director's cut running almost five hours - which finally arrived in 2014. Whether you're watching the trimmed or the flagrantly indulgent version of the film, Wenders' nutty, perambulating narrative (co-written with star and muse Solveig Dommartin) hardly ever makes for what is often thought of as a "normal" movie. It is, in fact, a larky, whimsical, meandering monster, a science-fiction film with almost no genre stuff, a road movie without a destination, a conscientious portrait of the late 20th century that resists realism and resolves instead into a portrait of the filmmaker, his passions and indulgences and loves. You either love it or hate it exactly because of all that. Set on the ostensibly apocalyptic edge of the century's turn, in 1999, the movie begins with the news that an Indian satellite has gone rogue and will crash-land somewhere on Earth. As disaster scenarios go, this is pretty small-bore, but it incites a mild panic, for all except Claire (Dommartin), a roving damsel of no particular profession, who the narration informs us is lovable, enviable, free-spirited and magnetic (none of which the rather dull Dommartin is to any great degree). Serendipity starts to strike, first with a car crash on an empty European highway with a pair of bumbling bank robbers (Chick Ortega and Eddy Mitchell), who entrust her with smuggling their multi-denominational bag of loot to Paris. She's heading back to her sometimes-lover/aspiring novelist Gene (Sam Neill), but along the way bumbles across the path of Trevor McPhee (William Hurt), a mystery man in a fedora who's being hunted by an assassin, and who's on a globetrotting mission involving virtual reality and his own dying mother (Jeanne Moreau). The falling satellite (and its electromagnetic discharges), the U.S. intelligence apparatus, the discovered (and addictive) ability to record one's own dreams, dangling love affairs, and unresolved father-son issues all figure into the mix, from Italy to France to the U.S. to Japan to Australia. But the reigning sense of the film is of Wenders' distinct movie sensibility: in this, and many other films, Wenders has maintained an undying ardor for road movie iconography, rock 'n roll on the radio, lowdown American roadhouses, jukeboxes, mid-century outsider nostalgia, and plain old hanging out, preferably in a desert bar with rockabilly playing somewhere and a T-bird parked outside. (The film's famous soundtrack, which did all the business the film did not, includes then-new songs by U2, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, etc.) It's his vision of life as it should be lived in movies, and in this film, the story doesn't move forward logically so much as it just... hangs out. Characters loiter and dally, and happily make their world out of random hotel rooms, airports and building lobbies. Like the wanderings of a genuine outlaw or drop-out nomad, the movie's movement from location to location is immersed in the interstitial moments, and luxuriates in the feeling of being between places, or nowhere at all. This is Wenders at his most Wendersian, in either high or maximum dosage depending on which version of Until the End of the World you settle down to, and either you are seduced by this alternative vibe, which can deliberately feel as though the movie's making itself up as it goes, or you're not. Wenders doesn't make many concessions for viewers that aren't; no one invests years in a grand folly like this worrying about conventional audience satisfaction, and Wenders was all in, betting the bank of his career, which was flush after the arthouse hits Paris, Texas (1984) and Wings of Desire (1987), on this loopy walkabout. After that, for the last few decades, his films and budgets grew smaller and less ambitious, focusing on smaller desperate-outsider dramas and music documentaries. In real world terms, the megalomaniac gamble of Until the End of the World did not succeed - but then, grand follies never do. Even when the results are unanimously beloved, life for the artist after The Mega-Movie is almost necessarily a tamer wager on far smaller stakes. By Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter December 25, 1991

Released in United States on Video July 22, 1992

Released in United States 1991

Released in United States September 10, 1991

Released in United States December 17, 1991

Released in United States 1996

Shown at Dutch Film Days September 18-26, in Utrecht.

Shown at Tokyo International Film Festival (closing film) September 27 - October 6, 1991.

Shown at benefit screening in New York City December 17, 1991 for the Film at the Public.

Actor William Hurt replaced Willem Dafoe.

German distributor Tobis plans to release the director's 5-hour cut in early 1992.

Began shooting April 2, 1990.

Completed shooting August 17, 1990.

Film was to be shot in 65mm, but the necessary camera equipment was too bulky and the plan was abandoned.

Project is the first of a 5-film arrangement between producer Jonathan Taplin and an association of Japanese companies including Suntory, Mitsubishi, the Dentsu advertising agency, and real estate developer Central Kusan.

Film utilitized High-Definition TV (HDTV) technology.

Released in United States Winter December 25, 1991

Released in United States on Video July 22, 1992

Released in United States September 10, 1991 (Film premiered September 10, 1991 at the Zoo Palast in Berlin.)

Released in United States December 17, 1991 (Shown at benefit screening in New York City December 17, 1991 for the Film at the Public.)

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in Los Angeles (American Cinematheque) as part of program "The Long & Winding Road: The Films of Wim Wenders" September 27 - October 12, 1996.)

Released in United States 1991 (Shown at Tokyo International Film Festival (closing film) September 27 - October 6, 1991.)