Until the End of the World is a 1991 film by director Wim Wenders, starring Solveig Dommartin, William Hurt and Max von Sydow. It was intended as "the ultimate road movie." It follows the story of a runaway French party girl named Claire who gets mixed up with a couple of bank robbers and the estranged fugitive son of a brilliant scientist, and it takes place against the backdrop of an impending nuclear catastrophe of an out of control satellite threatening to end civilization as we know it late in the year 1999.
Various feature length versions of the film exist, but according to Wenders one has not really seen the film unless one has watched the 3-part, 5.5 hour cut, also known as "The Trilogy." It was filmed on four different continents, and the cast and crew grew as production moved from country to country.
One other notable aspect of the film is its soundtrack, featuring an all-star ensemble of various artists such as Depeche Mode, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., and U2, among others. Most notably, the soundtrack includes "Sax and Violins", the final song written and released by Talking Heads prior to their breakup around the time of the film's release.
Until the End of the World: The Trilogy features the following tropes:
- 20 Minutes into the Future: in the year 1999, we will have talking GPS in our cars, and carry sophisticated wallet-sized computers in our pockets, but everyone still uses public (video) phones. The setting was handled very effectively though, and the film still holds up well to modern viewers.
- Electronics giant Sony allowed several of its prototypes to be used in the film.
- The Alleged Car: The vehicle that Gene, Philip Winter, et. al. use to pursue Claire and Sam in Australia. Actually, Australia is full of these. We even get to see a tractor pulling a train of odd, mismatched vehicles full of Australians fleeing the radioactive fallout.
- Apocalypse How: Probably a Class 2 or a Class 3, but averted.
- Apocalypse Wow: Averted. Civilization isn't destroyed by the EMP, and life goes on. Only it takes the main characters a while to realize this, since they're out of contact with the rest of civilization.
- Bilingual Bonus: There are a number of unsubtitled conversations in a variety of languages. Although they're usually non-essential to the plot, explained later, or somewhat comprehensible on context alone, those who speak the languages in use will get something extra out of them.
- Canon Discontinuity: Word of God calls the feature-length version the "Reader's Digest version." Wim Wenders only considers the 5.5 hour long version the "real" version.
- Chekhov's Gun: The tracker planted on the money bag.
- Cold Cash: Claire uses a futuristic looking fridge to stash the bills bank robbers gave her for transporting their loot into Paris.
- Computer Voice: "You have left the map zone, Claire."
- Cool Car: the motorized European police Tuk-tuks; Chico's pink convertible that he drives while in America; and a bunch of odd, futuristic vehicles in the background throughout the film, mostly in Europe and America.
- Cuffs Off, Rub Wrists: Claire does this in Part 2, although her cuffs haven't actually been taken off - just the door to which she was handcuffed.
- Cult Soundtrack: see the Future Music example below.
- Cyberpunk: Sam's father's device, a camera capable of recording and playing back sensory experiences, has the potential to make the blind see again, but the device also offers users a dangerous addiction to viewing playback of their own dreams.
- Data Pad: Everyone seems to carry around a wallet-sized personal computer.
- The Deadliest Mushroom: For 2/3 of the trilogy, everyone's waiting for it to happen.
- EMP: The effect of the out-of-control Indian nuclear satellite.
- The End of the World as We Know It: an out-of-control Indian nuclear satellite threatens to fall to Earth and destroy the world's digital infrastructure.
- Everything Is An I Pod In The Future: The wallet-sized handheld computers everyone carried around are very prescient; Claire's futuristic binocular camera is all smooth curves. However, some technology in the film (like Dr. Farber's camera and the computers in his lab) look positively 1980's, and, other technology like handheld videophones was given a strange, neo-classical look. In one scene a character has a conversation on a hotel room videophone that looks like a miniature Greco-Roman column with a screen on top.
- Fictional Document: Claire's novelist ex-boyfriend's book-in-progress, "Dance Around The World."
- Future Music: extremely well done and tasteful. In 1991 the director approached artists like Depeche Mode, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and others, and asked them to produce music for his film like the music they thought they would be making in the year 1999, as the world is due to end.
- Future Slang: averted. And the film still comes off as futuristic despite the absence of Future Slang.
- Just Before the End: The setting.
- Land Down Under: The latter half of Part II and most of Part III.
- Magical Native American: the Australian Aboriginals in Part III.
- Multiple Endings: Provided by the use of the film's Fictional Document (see above).
- Oedipus Complex: It's easy to interpret Trevor McPhee/Sam Farber as having a bad case of this.
- The Power of Rock: A variant, the Power Of Words, saves Claire from the "disease of images" she catches after becoming obsessed with viewing her own dreams.
- Road Trip Plot: Wim Wenders, considered the "master of the road movie," intended this to be the ultimate example.
- Space Clothes: European party-goers in the year 1999 have some interesting fashion tastes. Lots of shiny, colorful plastic clothing. On the other hand, fedoras are popular among men.
- Switch to English: Claire variously speaks French and English, and also some German. She frequently switches to English to converse with others.
- Truth Serums: A favorite tactic of Bert the Bounty Hunter; Claire being dosed with a truth drug provides two very amusing scenes (one in Moscow as she chatters in English to a bunch of annoyed Russians, and another in Australia when, to avoid revealing information about Sam/Trevor, she answers his interrogations in her native French, which Bert, an English-speaking Australian, cannot understand).
- Video Phone: Video payphones even take credit cards.