Until the End of the World
1991, R, 295 min. Directed by Wim Wenders. Starring Solveig Dommartin, William Hurt, Sam Neill, Rüdiger Volger, Max von Sydow, Jeanne Moreau.
REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., Feb. 28, 1992
What starts out promisingly enough continues considerably beyond the end of the world and wears out even the most determined Wenders fan. Set in a future when an Indian nuclear satellite is poised to crash to earth, Until the End of the World follows the adventures of a woman (Dommartin) who seems determined to party until the year 2000 but changes plans when she meets Hurt, a man with a price on his head. She pursues him around the world not knowing whether he is a con man or a thief, but happy to have something to do. Also in pursuit of Hurt are a couple of fairly inept bounty hunters, and Dommartin's old boyfriend, Neill. The chase jumps from Venice, to the south of France, from Berlin to China, to San Francisco and to the Australian outback. Unfortunately, we don't have much incentive to follow the pursuit, even given more than a few good moments and lovely visions. For us, it's neither love nor money, but only curiosity and perhaps a love of foreign scenery. At first Wenders holds our interest with the details of this new world. Video phones, Dommartin's pocket video recorder, and chatty computers. In fact, in this future, technology has a friendly face even when it's up to no good. For instance, a glittering array of stars highlight the news from a money machine that Dommartin is out of money, and a determined Russian bear animates a program that searches for missing or fugitive persons. In contrast, the object of everyone's search turns out to be a camera that records images blind people can see. It's not a slick-looking piece of equipment but rather an intimidating tangle of wires and harness, and though its purpose seems obviously good, in practice there is a high price to pay for vision. By this time we have washed up exhausted in Australia with Hurt's parents: his mad scientist father, inventor of the camera, played by Von Sydow and his mother, Moreau, a blind ethnographer. When, in yet another twist, Von Sydow announces that he now wants to try and record dreams, well the rest of us just have to throw up our hands and cry uncle. The music is great, the images are beautiful but for us, the world has long ended and we want to go home.