Australia – Germany / 1990
Writers: Peter Carey, Wim Wenders, based on a story by Wenders and Solveig Dommartin / Director: Wim Wenders
Cast: William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow, Rudiger Vogler, Ernie Dingo, Jeanne Moreau, Lois Chiles, Chick Ortega, Elena Smirnowa, Eddy Mitchell, Ryu Chisu, Allen Garfield, David Gulpill
Unconventional and idiosyncratic, German director Wim Wenders extends his mastery over the road- movie genre by mixing the tale of a woman (SOLVEIG DOMMARTIN) crossing Europe with the proceeds of a robbery, with the science-fiction story of a man (WILLIAM HURT) who wants to photograph dreams. This all takes place in 1999, when the Earth is facing a potential global conflagration.
Solveig is trapped in an unhappy marriage with SAM NEILL, a somewhat stolid novelist (and narrator of the film), who does not appreciate his wife’s demi-monde ways. When she departs to attend a wildly decadent party on her own, there is the suspicion that the marriage is over. This is confirmed when she is driving home across Europe and falls in with bank robbers CHICK ORTEGA and EDDY MITCHELL, who agree to give her a proportion of their criminal takings if she will be their mule and transport the ill-gotten games to their destination. However, en route, she falls in with the mysterious Hurt, to whom she is unaccountably attracted.
This proves to be a wrong move when Hurt takes her stolen money and disappears from their Paris destination. Furious at being duped, Solveig takes off across continents to pursue him – washing up in the outbacks of Australia.
Hurt, it turns out, is a scientist of a type who has been developing a camera that photographs dreams. It becomes apparent that Hurt’s father MAX VON SYDOW is the creator of the machine; it’s purpose being to return a kind of sight to Hurt’s blind mother JEANNE MOREAU. Their work is given an added urgency as the family slowly comes to believe that the rest of the world has been destroyed in a nuclear Armageddon, and one of the few hopes for the survivors is the dreaming communication of Hurt and Von Sydow’s invention. But is it safe in itself, or is it a brand new danger to the survival of the world?
Filmed in locations in Australia, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Russia, America, France and Germany, the film has a genuine global breadth that aims to create an epic covering both a personal love story, and a worldwide analysis of conflict and a concept of the future. However, to achieve Wenders’ full vision, Until The End Of The World spans several hours in its complete form. Wenders’ cut of the movie was unveiled in 1996 at the University of Washington and took five hours. For the cinematic release (and the television version), the running time is closer to two hours. Although Wenders afficianados may worry that this detracts from the movie, the essential narrative and moods remain the same in the TV version. Although the mis en scene is less pronounced, the events and emotional impact are both as accessible in the theatrically released version as the director’s cut.