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Until the End of the World

By driph in Media
Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 08:35:01 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

"1999 was the year the Indian nuclear satellite went out of control. No one knew where it might land. It soared above the ozone layer like a lethal bird of prey. The whole world was alarmed. Claire couldn't care less."

I recently purchased a copy of Until the End of the World, Wim Wenders's 1990 epic telling of the story of Claire(Solvieg Dommartin), Gene(Sam Neill) and the stranger that ultimately sends them around the globe, Sam Farber(played by William Hurt), a hunted man who carries with him an extraordinary device developed by his father(Max von Sydow), all taking place as 1999 is drawing to a close while the world waits in fear as a potential global catastophe involving a string of nuclear satellites comes to bear.

Currently the only version available, this 158 minute edit is far from the entire story Wenders wished to tell. In fact, he has presented several times the full length 280 minute UTEOTW "trilogy," the most recent screening being at the DGA Theater last month in Manhattan.

A member of the UTEOTW Yahoo Group recounts the event:

"Wenders was introduced and he made a few brief and very soft spoken comments before the lights dimmed and we got to see the full length version in three parts.

The full length print is the only one in existence and was quite clean and very sharp and vibrant. Wenders explained that when they had the final edit done he made a final and futile attempt to convince the producers and the studio that that should be the length of the film. He was told to cut it to less than 3 hours. He made a duplicate of the negative and made the cuts to that instead. So the version everyone has seen, which he derisively called the Reader's Digest version (herein referred to as the RD version), is actually a generation removed from his master copy. The DVD release should reveal how much better the picture is from the master negative."

On the movie itself:

"Each of the three segments opens with the same opening dialogue ('1999 was the year the Indian Nuclear satellite went out of control...') with the second and third parts continuing with a recap of where things stood at the end of the previous segment.

The first part contains the least amount of added footage. There are alot more details and several characters that were omitted in the RD version. We find out a great deal more about why Claire left Gene. We get to hear complete or near complete versions of songs that were only hinted at in the RD version and in at least a few cases songs appear in very different parts of the film. The first part ends as Sam and Claire are leaving Tokyo by train and going north into the mountains.

The second and third parts contain the majority of the unseen scenes. Many of the characters that are incidental in the RD version appear on screen for a great deal longer and play larger parts in the story line especially in Australia. We get to see and experience a great deal more of the large community of aborigines and scientists living in the outback together. There was considerably more footage from China. If you didn't know, Wenders was unable to get permission to film in China so they sent Solveig Donmartin and one or two other people to China and she did the filming herself.

One of the intriguing points of the film is the part played by technology. Working with Sony engineers, Wenders made extensive use of HDTV in later scenes of the movie, and he and his crew of futurists strove to create a plausible 1999 and technology that was prevalent while not standing out from the story. Also featured in the film is an interesting similarity to the real-life computer-related panic of late 1999. Wenders reveals his thoughts on their work in an article by Joshua Ostroff:

"A lot of it is so real now. Here we are, 10 years later, and some of what the movie is about comes back in strange ways. In 1990, no one was worried. We didn't even know about the computer problem. In our film, all the computers were erased by the nuclear incident (the U.S. shoots down an out-of-control nuclear satellite, setting off an electromagnetic pulse).
I guess that was our version of Y2K."

Wenders seems quite amused by what the film correctly predicted and by what it missed completely. The cars, for instance, all boasted global positioning systems advising drivers which routes to take and which to avoid.

"I'm driving a car with one of those screens now," he says, "but it's way more complicated than the one in the movie."

Wenders is extremely pleased that the videophones, ubiquitous in his film, now exist in Japan, and he laughs that the joke about Mick Jagger and company -- where Sam Neil says, "Remember when we went to the Rolling Stones' last concert? Except it wasn't" -- is still funny.

But he's less impressed with the film's wardrobe, saying sci-fi film clothing almost always reflects the era it was created in, not the era it was created for. His film also failed to predict the demise of the Soviet Union -- the Moscow section features outdated communist iconography - and the stamina of Red China, when a bit in Beijing shows a statue of the infamous image of a student standing down a tank in Tiananmen Square.

His biggest blunder, though, was in cyberspace. "Nobody thought of the Internet," Wenders says. "With all the futurologists (we hired), not a single one of them thought of that."

All in all, the movie proposed an interesting and in several ways accurate view of the future, although it, as many other films have been in the past, is a few years off in the implementation of the technology presented.

Until the End of the World stands with Wings of Desire(which spawned the US watered-down remake City of Angels) as one of Wenders's greatest and most inspiring films. If you have yet to see this sci-fi gem, rent it immediately. Information on future screenings of the full-length master reel can be found on wim-wenders.com as they are announced.

Wim Wenders is currently working on bringing his films to DVD, most of which should be available(including the possible release of the full version of Until the End of the World) by the end of 2001.

Wim Wenders latest film is The Million Dollar Hotel, starring Jeremy Davies, Milla Jovovich and Mel Gibson.
The amazing UTEOTW soundtrack, featuring Graeme Revell, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, Lou Reed, U2 and others is currently available.


Voxel dot net
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Favorite Wim Wenders film?
o Wings of Desire 12%
o Faraway, So Close! 1%
o Paris, Texas 5%
o Buena Vista Social Club 3%
o Until the End of the World 10%
o The American Friend 0%
o Other... 5%
o Uh..who? 60%

Votes: 55
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Yahoo
o Until the End of the World
o Wim Wenders's
o Solvieg Dommartin
o Sam Neill
o William Hurt
o Max von Sydow
o version
o DGA Theater
o UTEOTW Yahoo Group
o Until the End of the World [2]
o Wings of Desire
o City of Angels
o wim-wender s.com
o The Million Dollar Hotel
o soundtrack
o available
o Also by driph

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Until the End of the World | 11 comments (6 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Believable technology in movies... (5.00 / 3) (#1)
by driph on Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 10:39:46 AM EST

As an aside, one of the things that really impressed me about the film was the way technology played a major role without being the focus of the movie, as I mentioned above. It is just there. Too often movies make a big deal of explaining and showing off technical innovation of the future, which tends to give it a contrived feeling in my view.

...I think it's the details that make it work... The graffiti on the phone booths in UTEOTW, the light-up umbrellas in Bladerunner...the little everyday things that make the big things(Farber's device, or replicants) believable.

Whatcha think? Any other movies that do this really well?

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
Saw it when it came out (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by ucblockhead on Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 12:16:11 PM EST

I saw this when it came out, and at the time remembering how impressed I was at the science-fictional elements. I remember thinking that it was a quite reasonable '99.

I've not seen it since, but I'm not surprised by the clothes. It is very rare for a science-fiction film to get beyond the styles of the day. Even ones that do pretty well at avoiding the obvious, like Alien give it away with the hair-styles.

I also remember enjoying it immensely (and a lot more than his sequel to "Wings of Desire", which is one of my all-time top ten movies.) I'll have to check out the DVD. I'd love to find the full-length print.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

my tradition with "Until the End of the World (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by madams on Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 02:48:17 PM EST

I used to watch this film every year around New Years up until the year 2000. I really dig Wenders's vision of 1999/2000 (the digital cameras are probobly the most accurate part of it).

"I'm the Bounty Bear. I find them here. I find them there. Searching... Searching..."

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I want Gene's little computer!

Mark Adams
"But pay no attention to anonymous charges, for they are a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age." - Trajan's reply to Pliny the Younger, 112 A.D.

Re:Computers in UTEOTW (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by driph on Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 03:37:09 PM EST

I remember thinking how aggravating that bear(or the kids on Winter's machine) would be after hearing him for the 1000th time. I'll bet the bounty hunters keep the volume down/graphics minimized unless clients are around to show off to.

Yeah, the handhelds were pretty slick...

Also, the spherical computers floating in the coolant within Farber Sr's lab weren't too shabby either, not to mention the screen. I need real estate like that.

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]
Agents (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by ucblockhead on Mon Mar 12, 2001 at 11:58:09 AM EST

Yeah, I remember when that movie came out, "Agents" were supposed to be the next killer app. (It turned out to be the Web, of course.) That was just prior to the whole "Microsoft Bob" fiasco and right around when that fucking paperclip showed up.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
opening lines (none / 0) (#9)
by Kellnerin on Sun Mar 11, 2001 at 12:16:08 AM EST

"1999 was the year the Indian nuclear satellite went out of control. No one knew where it might land. It soared above the ozone layer like a lethal bird of prey. The whole world was alarmed. Claire couldn't care less."

What a great opening, and premise for the movie -- so much better than if he had based it around a rusting space station crashing to earth with its mutant fungus ...

The clothes were a bit off, perhaps, but the music was so much better than what we were being subjected to by the time 1999 rolled around ... just think of the title track by U2 (who were already past their peak) compared to the stuff they were releasing at the turn of the millenium.
Somebody go tell Kellnerin it's time for her to change her sig. -johnny

Until the End of the World | 11 comments (6 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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