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
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.