(In Memory of Jeanne Moreau (1928-2017) & Sam Shepard (1943-2017))
Directed by Wim Wenders and screenplay by Wenders and Peter Carey from a story by Wenders and Solveig Dommartin with ideas from Michael Almereyda, Until the End of the World is the story of a road trip involving two people as they drive around the world before it’s to end in the new millennium as a nuclear satellite is about to enter Earth. The film is considered the ultimate road film as it involve two people traveling through four continents carrying something that could help the world just as time is running out. Starring William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Sam Neill, Chishu Ryu, Lois Chiles, David Gulipill, Max von Sydow, Rudiger Volger, Ernie Dingo, and Jeanne Moreau. Until the End of the World is a sprawling and evocative film from Wim Wenders.
A nuclear satellite from India is malfunctioning as it is set to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere setting panic across the planet where a woman’s encounter with bank robbers and later a man on the run would take her to a journey around the world. It’s a film that is this massive journey in which a woman with self-destructive tendencies falls for this mysterious man she has met in the South of France as he would steal a cut of the money she’s gained for helping a couple of bank robbers as she would follow this man all over the world who is in trouble with the law. Amidst all of this is the idea of a world coming to an end as the world’s leaders try to figure out how to deal with the satellite that is to crash down on Earth and destroy civilization as it’s in the backdrop of this story of two people traveling around the world as one of them is carrying a machine that could help humanity.
The film’s screenplay Wim Wenders and Peter Carey is largely told from the perspective of the novelist Eugene Fitzpatrick (Sam Neill) who narrates the film from time to time as he reflects on the journey he would participate in as it relates to the protagonist in his girlfriend Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin) who is this aimless party girl that is indifferent to what is happening in the world. Through a detour from a traffic jam, Claire would drive from Venice to Paris where her encounters with bank robbers in Raymond (Eddy Mitchell) and Chico (Chick Ortega) lead to a car crash as she would help them hide and given a cut of the money they stole unaware that there’s a tracking device in the bag she’s carrying. Upon getting her car repaired, she would meet this mysterious man named Trevor McPhee (William Hurt) who gets a ride to Paris as he would later steal a bit of the money she had prompting her to find him all over Europe for much of the film’s first act. The second act isn’t just a continuation of Tourneur following McPhee with the help of a private investigator in Philip Winter (Rudiger Volger) with Fitzgerald joining in the search later on. It’s about Tourneur falling for McPhee where Winter and Fitzgerald learn about his true identity and why he’s on the run.
Traveling to cities such as Lisbon, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, San Francisco, and eventually ending in the Australian outback, the film’s narrative showcase the search that Tourneur would endure where it’s not just this existential journey but also a way into a world that she might see for the last time as time is a factor in the film. The sense of the unknown about this nuclear satellite looms throughout the film as the film’s third act set in the Australian outback isn’t just about McPhee and his mission but the people he’s reaching out to in a scientist named Henry Farber (Max von Sydow) and Farber’s blind wife Edith (Jeanne Moreau). Especially at a time when the unthinkable has happened leading to those wondering how the end of the world could be the beginning of something new.
Wenders’ direction is definitely grand in terms of not just the ambition he took to shooting the film in different locations across four continents around the world. It’s a film that is constantly moving whether it’s by land, by air, or by sea as it play into a world that is doing what it needed to do despite the fact that a nuclear satellite is about to crash to hit the Earth’s atmosphere and land somewhere. Wenders would show this sense of impending doom in the background whether it’s on a TV program or on a newspaper as Tourneur is too distracted to notice what is happening as she is eager to find McPhee. While there are a lot of wide shots to establish some of the locations and places these characters go into. Wenders doesn’t make sure the different locations would deter from the story as there is an intimacy whether it’s through a small video camera that Tourneur would carry from her home movie in China or some of the scenes during the third act on the Australian outback.
Wenders’ direction also has this sense of style in the close-ups and medium shots while giving each location its own mood and visual style as the scenes in Tokyo and rural Japan showcase something quiet and transcendence where Tourneur knows who McPhee really is and why he’s on the run as he is also dealing blindness due to the machine he’s carrying. The machine itself is something that would showcase what McPhee is trying to do for the Farbers as it is a very personal mission for McPhee as he hopes the machine would do some good for humanity. The third act in Australia which takes place just after the event that is described as the end of the world in terms of what happens to technology and all of the things that used to run the world. There is a moment where amidst this sense of the unknown about whether the world is gone after all or nothing has happened. There is a scene just before the end of the 20th Century is where this mixture of Aborigines and foreigners are just playing and listening to music as they don’t dwell into the loss of technology or the need to communicate with people from the outside world. It is a very brief moment of pure simplicity and community that showcases what humanity could be as all of the characters who were part of Tourneur’s journey interact as one.
Yet, it’s a very brief moment that is followed by humanity’s own flaw as it play into the need to start again with technology as it play into not just the sense of immorality but also loss. It’s where Fitzgerald becomes the protagonist of sorts where he goes through his own development from being a lover of Tourneur obsessed with going after her into finding himself. He would observe into what Farber has created that leave Tourneur and McPhee not just lost but also display something that Wenders sees is absolutely dead-on about what the world would become in the 21st Century. It’s where the protagonists are once again traveling but instead in reality, it’s through the mind where they become completely lost and they need to go into a journey of self-discovery. Overall, Wenders creates a majestic yet intoxicating film about a couple going on a worldwide journey just before the world is about to end.
Cinematographer Robby Muller does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of natural lighting for many of the exteriors in the different locations with some lighting for some of the interior scenes including the party at Venice or the hotels in Lisbon, Berlin, and Moscow. Editor Peter Przygodda does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts in some places as well as montages to play into Fitzgerald’s narration and other elements to help play into the sense of movement of the film. Production designers Sally Campbell and Thierry Flamand, with set decorators Ze Branco and Tim Ferrier as well as a quartet of art directors in Steve Burns, Claudio Carrer, Ian Gracie, and Jan Schlubach, do fantastic work with the look of some of the places the characters go to such as the party in Venice, Fitzgerald’s Parisian apartment, the different hotel rooms through the different locations, and Farber’s lab inside the caves in Australia.
Costume designer Montserrat Casanova does superb work with the costumes from the array of dresses that Tourneur wears including the black wig as well as some of the stylish clothes the men wear throughout the film. The special effects work of Frank Schlegel is terrific for the look of the visuals from the machines that McPhee is carrying as well as what Farber is displaying from the big televisions to the computers at the lab. The sound work of Jean-Paul Mugel is amazing for the atmosphere of the locations as well as the sound of radios, televisions, and vehicles to create something natural and engaging. The film’s music by Graeme Revell is incredible for its mixture of jazz, ambient, and electronic music to play into this idea of a music of the future as it play into the sense of the unknown while the film’s music soundtrack features a diverse collection of acts and artists who all provide their own ideas of the music of the future. Among these acts and artists in the film’s soundtrack include music from Talking Heads, U2, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Neneh Cherry, Jane Sibbery and k.d. lang, Daniel Lanois, R.E.M., Can, T-Bone Burnett, Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith with Fred “Sonic” Smith, Crime & the City Solution, and Julee Cruise.
The film’s marvelous cast include an array of appearances and small roles from Adelle Lutz as a friend of Tourneur in Makiko, Ernie Dingo as a detective trying to find McPhee, Ernest Berk and Christine Oesterlein as relatives of Farber, Allen Garfield as a used car salesman in San Francisco, Lauren Graham (not the actress of Gilmore Girls fame) as Farber’s granddaughter, Jimmy Little as an Aboriginal assistant of Farber in Peter, Justine Saunders as Edith’s caretaker Maisie, Kylie Belling as an Aboriginal doctor who carries a radiation detector, Kuniko Miyake as a Japanese innkeeper, and Eddy Mitchell as a French bank robber who gets wounded during the escape as he thanks Tourneur for helping him. Chick Ortega is terrific as Chico as a French bank robber who befriends Tourneur as he would follow her around the world through his tracking device while aspires to be a drummer while Chishu Ryu is superb as a Japanese innkeeper who specializes in making herbs as he would help McPhee with his eye site.
Lois Chiles is wonderful as Farber’s daughter Elsa who would provide the images key to what Edith would see while David Gulipill is fantastic as an Aboriginal man named David who is a family friend that would help McPhee reach his destination. Rudiger Volger is excellent as the private detective Philip Winters as a man who specializes in finding missing children as he helps Tourneur find McPhee in the film’s first act only to discover his true identity where he and Fitzgerald would follow them. Max von Sydow is brilliant as Henry Farber as a scientist trying to create a machine that would allow the blind to see things based on memories only to go way over his head with his ambitions. Jeanne Moreau is radiant as Edith Farber as the scientist’s blind wife who laments over the experiment she is taking part of as well as wondering if what she’s participating will do any good for the world.
Sam Neill is amazing as Eugene Fitzgerald as the film’s narrator who is a lover of Tourneur that copes with the journey Tourneur is enduring as well as his own writer’s block as he tries to write a novel only to find something more in Australia as he would embrace the simplicity of life while watch Tourneur and McPhee descend toward their obsession with technology. William Hurt is incredible as Trevor McPhee as a mysterious man that is on the run from the law as he is carrying a machine from Farber where he would cope with blindness and the demands of his mission as it’s a very low-key yet engaging performance from Hurt. Finally, there’s Solveig Dommartin in a phenomenal performance as Claire Tourneur as an aimless party girl who embarks on a journey that would change her life as she copes with the things she is seeing as it’s this entrancing yet offbeat performance from Dommartin.
Until the End of the World is a tremendous film from Wim Wenders. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals set on many different locations, a riveting story on a world coming to an end, and an exhilarating music soundtrack. It’s a film, in its full-length near five-hour run time, truly lives up to the idea of the ultimate road movie in a lot of ways while also predicting what would happen during the end of the world as well as humanity becoming reliant on technology to find something that can’t be found. In the end, Until the End of the World is a magnificent film from Wim Wenders.
Wim Wenders Films: (Summer in the City) - (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty) - (The Scarlet Letter (1973 film)) - Alice in the Cities - Wrong Move - Kings of the Road - The American Friend - (Lightning Over Water) - (Room 666) - (Hammett) - (The State of Things) – Paris, Texas - (Tokyo-Ga) – Wings of Desire - (Notebook on Cities and Clothes) - (Faraway, So Close!) - (Lisbon Story) - (Beyond the Clouds) - (A Trick of Light) - (The End of Violence) - (Buena Vista Social Club) - (The Million Dollar Hotel) - (The Soul of a Man) - (Land of Plenty) - (Don’t Come Knocking) - (The Palermo Shooting) - (Pina) - Salt of the Earth - (Every Thing Will Be Fine) – (The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez) – (Submergence) - (Pope Francis: A Man of His Word)
© thevoid99 2017
RIP to Moreau and Shepard.
I do need to see this film and others since it looks like I haven't seen any Wim Wenders movies.
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