Until the End of the World

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Until the End of the World
Directed by Wim Wenders
Produced by Ulrich Felsberg
Jonathan Taplin
Screenplay by Wim Wenders
Peter Carey
Story by Wim Wenders
Solveig Dommartin
Starring Solveig Dommartin
William Hurt
Sam Neill
Max von Sydow
Jeanne Moreau
Rüdiger Vogler
Ernie Dingo
Lois Chiles
Music by Graeme Revell (original score)
Cinematography Robby Müller
Edited by Peter Przygodda
Distributed by Warner Brothers (United States; 1991) Janus Films (United States; 2015)
Release dates
12 September 1991 (1991-09-12)
Running time
158 minutes (theatrical cut), 179 minutes ("European cut"), 288 minutes (director's cut)[1]
Country Germany
Language English, French, German
Budget $23,000,000 (est.)
Box office $829,625 (USA)

Until the End of the World (German: Bis ans Ende der Welt) is a 1991 drama science fiction 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.


The film takes place in late 1999. India has an out-of-control nuclear satellite in orbit that is about to re-enter the atmosphere at any time, contaminating large areas of the Earth. This has caused a massive panic, with everyone trying to flee the likely impact sites. Caught in a traffic jam, impatient and disconnected Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) escapes the highway congestion by taking a side road. Her dashboard computer system announces she has left the map zone database and is on her own. She then has a couple of odd encounters, first with a pair of bank robbers (which leaves her with a large amount of cash), then with a hitchhiker being pursued by an armed party. Claire discovers, after falling in love with the enigmatic fugitive, that he is the son of a scientist (played by Max von Sydow), and has absconded with the prototype of a secret research project. Multiple government agencies and freelance bounty hunters are chasing him to recover the device.

The film has two distinct parts: the first is a mystery; the second a science-fiction adventure. The mystery is about the prototype, what it actually does and why so many people are interested in it. Halfway through the film the focus shifts, as the prototype is revealed to be a device for recording and translating brain impulses—a camera for the blind. The hitchhiker is traveling around the world, gathering images in the device though the reason why is not revealed. During the second part, the reason for his travels is revealed: the hitchhiker has been filming his extended family to bring home to his blind mother (Jeanne Moreau).

As the chase moves across the globe, the nuclear satellite is shot down, causing a Nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NEMP) effect that wipes out all unshielded electronics worldwide. The characters wind up in a 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 characters become addicted to viewing their own dreams, while Claire's estranged lover, a novelist, remains unaffected. He writes a novel about the adventure, which ultimately rescues Claire from her addiction to the device, via the power of words.


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.[2]

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.

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 panned by critics, although some did give it favorable reviews. Critical reception was lukewarm elsewhere as well. Wenders calls this cut of his film the "Reader's Digest Version."

Director's cut

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.[3]

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.[4]


Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack Until The End of the World was released January 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:

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. Janus Films (13 August 2015). "Janus Films - Timeline Photos". Facebook. Facebook. Retrieved 14 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Bob Evans, "OUR PIECE OF THE ACTION", The Australian Financial Review, 18 October 1991, p. 33
  3. http://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?t=267417
  4. http://www.ifccenter.com/films/until-the-end-of-the-world-directors-cut/

External links