Until the End of the World

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Until the End of the World (German: Bis ans Ende der Welt) is a 1991 film by the German film director Wim Wenders; the screenplay was written by Wenders and Peter Carey, from a story by Wenders and Solveig Dommartin. An initial draft of the screenplay was written by American filmmaker Michael Almereyda. Wenders, whose career had been distinguished by his mastery of the road movie, had intended this as the Ultimate Road Movie.



The film takes place in late 1999. India has an out-of-control nuclear satellite in orbit that is apt to reenter the atmosphere at any time, contaminating large areas of the earth. This has caused an increasing degree of disorder, with large numbers fleeing the likely impact sites. Amidst a traffic jam, the impatient and disconnected Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) escapes the congestion by driving off the highway, is told by her Dashboard Computer System that she has left the Map Zone Database and is on her own, and subsequently has a couple of odd encounters: first with a pair of bank robbers (which leaves her in possession of a large amount of cash and a promised cut of it), and then with a hitchhiker who is apparently being pursued by at least one armed party. Claire eventually discovers, after falling in love with the enigmatic fugitive, that he is the son of a scientist (played by Max von Sydow), and he has absconded with the working prototype from a secret research project. Multiple government agencies and some freelance bounty hunters are attempting to recover it.

The plot of the film has two distinct phases, as if the film could be thought of as conceptually two separate films—such as an initial release and its sequel—tightly bonded together as one cinematic release: the first phase has a mystery plot; the second phase has a science-fiction plot. The mystery of the first phase of the plot is to answer what the purposeful function of the mysterious prototype actually is and why a string of people following Claire's hitchhiker are so interested in it. During the transition from the first phase of the plot to the second phase approximately midway through the film, the function of the prototype is revealed to be a device for recording and translating brain impulses—a camera for the blind. The first phase of the plot focuses on Claire's hitchhiker traveling the world, aiming the device at subject matter around the world, but the purpose for these extensive travels and the thread of commonality among all of the subject matter at which the prototype is being aimed is not revealed during the first stage of the plot. This serves to intensify the ever-building mystery that engages not only the audience, but also of the sequence of chaser chasing other chasers who themselves are following Claire's hitchhiker. On the leading edge of this sequence of chasers, there is greater interest in obtaining the protoype itself, but on the trailing end there is greater interest in obtaining the other chasers. During the second stage of the plot, the reason for these vast travels of this sequence of people among multiple continents is revealed: Claire's hitchhiker has been filming his widely-scattered family to show footage of them to his blind mother (Jeanne Moreau). Due to the editing of the film from 4 hours in the Director's Cut down to its wide cinematic release of less than 3 hours, some of this complexity of the two-stage plot is impaired in the wide-release version, but is more apparent in the Director's Cut.

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