A dream project about allowing other people to see one’s dreams, Until the End of the World is a dream partly realized and partly still in the head of the director. Described by director Wim Wenders as ‘the ultimate road movie,’ the $23 million production was intended to shoot in 65mm in 17 countries, but the format proved too unwieldy for all the location work and budget limitations forced a cutback to nine nations.
Film conveys the feeling of an abridgment, as narration by Sam Neill wallpapers the gaps in the globetrotting of William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin and other characters. Set in 1999, script by Wenders and Aussie writer Peter Carey [from an idea by Wenders and Dommartin] presents a world threatened by a nuclear satellite careening toward Earth. Party girl Claire Tourneur (Dommartin) is given stolen money by some bank robbers and, for kicks, she picks up a stranger, Trevor McPhee (Hurt), while transporting the loot to Paris.
Pursuing Trevor to Lisbon, Claire gets him into bed, but he takes off again. One step behind him to Berlin, Moscow, China and Japan, with the assisitance of detective Philip Winter (Wenders regular Rudiger Vogler), Claire finally wins Trevor’s trust and learns his true agenda. Detouring to San Francisco, pic comes to a rest after 78 minutes in Australia’s outback.
In the logistically taxing effort to get all this on screen, Wenders has sacrificed some of his customary poetry. And the grand emotion and obsession needed to carry the two lovers around the world isn’t apparent in Hurt and Dommartin. Pair strike no sparks, and Hurt seems blank most of the time.
[Version reviewed ran 178 mins.]