Wim Wenders's sprawling cyberpunk noir epic -- shot in no less than nine different countries -- is set in 1999 and stars Solveig Dommartin as Claire, a young Frenchwoman who comes into contact with a large sum of money stolen during a bank heist; in her travels she picks up a mysterious American hitchhiker (William Hurt), who himself steals some of the money before parting from her company. Upon discovering the theft, Claire sets out on his trail, with both a Hammett-styled German private eye (Rudiger Vogler) as well as her former lover, a novelist portrayed by Sam Neill, in tow. The hitchhiker is really Sam Farber, the son of an underground scientist (Max Von Sydow), and his mission is to travel the globe in order to acquire the funding necessary to develop the technology which will allow his blind mother (Jeanne Moreau) to "see" visual recordings of her family members; the second half of the film takes place largely in the Farbers' compound in the Australian Outback, where Sam, Claire and the others take refuge while attempting to bring the sight project to its fruition, in the meantime pondering earth's future in the wake of a nuclear disaster in outer space. Wenders' most ambitious film, budgeted at $23 million, Until the End Of the World ran into serious issues given its whopping length. The original cut ran 20 hours. Realizing that this would make theatrical screenings impossible, Wenders heavily edited the picture and wound up with a 5-hour cut with which he is reportedly satisfied (known as the 'Director's Cut'). Warners wouldn't go for this either, however, and whittled it down to 2 1/2. That version - which premiered theatrically in the U.S. on Christmas Day 1991- makes little sense ,with a disjointed narrative that doesn't shift gears so much as grind them as the action moves from country to country. Unsurprisingly, it confounded critics and lay viewers and infuriated its director, who all but disowned it. (Echoes of Once Upon a Time in America!) As with the Leone film, though, the Director's Cut of World did evetually see the light of day. It's now widely available in a multi-disc collector's set throughout Europe, and the public response to that version has been far more favorable.
by Jason Ankeny synopsis