Until the End of the World – Criterion Blu-ray Review

4.5 Stars Wim Wenders' epic sci-fi road movie debuts on Blu-ray

A preeminent figure in the New German Cinema period, director Wim Wenders first attracted international notice for his Road Movie Trilogy during the 1970’s; his stature rose even higher during the 80’s with Paris, Texas (1984) and the immortal Wings of Desire (1987). Following those successes, he made Until the End of the World, a road movie that melds science fiction and cutting-edge technology into its plot. Originally released on VHS in a truncated cut by Warner Bros., Criterion has licensed the full Director’s Cut of the movie for its home video debut.

Until the End of the World (1991)
Released: 25 Dec 1991
Rated: R
Runtime: 158 min
Director: Wim Wenders
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Cast: Solveig Dommartin, Pietro Falcone, Enzo Turrin, Chick Ortega
Writer(s): Peter Carey (screenplay), Wim Wenders (screenplay), Wim Wenders (original idea by), Solveig Dommartin (original idea by), Michael Almereyda
Plot: In 1999, Claire's life is forever changed after she survives a car crash. She rescues Sam and starts traveling around the world with him. Writer Eugene follows them and writes their story, as a way of recording dreams is being invented.
IMDB rating: 6.8
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: Criterion Collection
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 4 Hr. 47 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Clear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 12/10/2019
MSRP: $39.95

The Production: 4.5/5

In the year 1999, the world is on edge due to a nuclear satellite spinning out of control and threating everyone and no one upon impact. For restless Claire Tourneur (Solveig Dommartin), that’s of less importance to her as she drifts from place to place until a car accident in France drastically changes her course. From there, she crosses paths with many colorful characters, including a mysterious stranger named Sam Farber (William Hurt), who possesses a device capable of recording dreams and images for the blind to see. Claire follows him around the world and not only falls in love with him, but also learns a lot more about herself as well…

Conceived to be the ultimate road movie, Until the End of the World was three decades in the making – from initial conception to actual filming – before it arrived in theaters… with a thud. Those who first saw it upon initial release saw a heavily cut version that didn’t really connect or make an impression (although the film’s soundtrack was very successful in comparison); however, the Director’s Cut of the movie fully realizes the vision Wim Wenders had intended – a globetrotting journey that both celebrates and warns us about the pleasures of the digital age (the description of the “disease of images” sounds even more relevant today). While the film does take its time in terms of pacing, it also allows us to absorb and take in the sights and sounds of an amazing world from Europe to Australia while drawing a few parallels to our own current world in the sense of technology. While it was misunderstood when it was first released, Until the End of the World can now be truly appreciated for what it achieves and aspires to be, the ultimate road movie that not only entertains but makes you think as well – not an easy feat to accomplish.

As the enigmatic Claire, Solveig Dommartin casts a very memorable impression; she also helped conceive the story with Wenders. William Hurt stands out for his nuanced portrayal of the stranger with the device that nearly everyone is after; it stands out as one of his more underrated performances of his career. Familiar to devotees of Wenders’ oeuvre, Rudiger Vogler is a welcome presence as a private investigator with a heart of gold; Sam Neill is also notable as Claire’s estranged lover, who also narrates Claire’s story. Other notable appearances here include Max von Sydow and Jeanne Moreau as Sam’s parents (the former working on the project helping the blind to see), David Gulpilil as one of the Aborigines assisting Sam’s father in the project, Chick Ortega as one of the French bank robbers Claire encounters who ends up following along in the journey, Allen Garfield as a loose cannon of a used car salesman in San Francisco, Eddy Mitchell as the other bank robber, Elena Smirnova as a Russian agent tasked with locating Sam, and frequent Yasujiro Ozu collaborators Chishu Ryu and Kuniko Miyake as an elderly Japanese couple who help cure Sam of his initial blindness – the former in what would be his final film role.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The 287-minute Director’s Cut of the movie, split into two parts on two discs, is presented in its original 1:66:1 aspect ratio in this new 4K transfer approved by director Wim Wenders. Film grain is organic with a healthy sheen and some density shifts in regard to scenes that utilize the primitive high-definition sequences. Colors are strong throughout with very minimal cases of age-related issues like dirt, scratches and tears present. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s soundtrack is presented on a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround track for this release. Dialogue is both strong and clear, with sound effects and Graeme Revell’s incidental music score and accompanying songs (from the likes of U2, Talking Heads, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, R.E.M., and Elvis Presley, just to name a few of the many artists heard here) given both great clarity and fidelity without intruding upon each other. There’s no issues with distortion, crackling, or hissing present, which means that this is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 4.5/5

Disc 1

Introduction by Wim Wenders (13:53)

Till the End of the World – This look at the film’s musical soundtrack is split into two programs: a solo interview with Wenders (15:30) and a conversation between Wenders and David Byrne (8:18), whose “Sax and Violins” (courtesy of his band Talking Heads) is used in the movie.

Deleted Scenes (31:12)

The Song (18:10) – A 1991 short film by Uli M. Scheppel chronicling Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recording the song “(I’ll Love You) Till the End of the World” for the movie.

Disc 2

Behind-the-Scenes program (1:02:15) – A 1990 Japanese TV program that looks at the creation of the film’s HD sequences.

2001 Wim Wenders interview (30:48) – This German interview, conducted by Roger Willemsen, focuses on the origins of the movie and its production.

Up-Down Under Romo (6:32) – This 1993 interview with Wenders focuses on his time in Australia both before and during the making of the movie.

U.S. Theatrical Trailer (2:30)

Booklet featuring essays by film critics Bilge Ebiri & Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

Overall: 4.5/5

Despite a rough initial theatrical run, Until the End of the World has survived and has been reappraised as one of Wim Wenders’ best works as well as being his most ambitious. Criterion has delivered one of their best releases of 2019 with great marks in both picture and audio quality as well as a great offering of special features as well. Very highly recommended.

Amazon.com: Until the End of the World (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]: William Hurt, Jeanne Moreau, Sam Neill, Max von Sydow: Movies & TV


Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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Josh Steinberg

Senior HTF Member
Jun 10, 2003
Real Name
Josh Steinberg
I bought my first region free DVD player just to be able to import the director’s cut of this way back in the day, and I was not disappointed!


Bounded In a Nutshell
HW Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Jun 20, 2000
A Mile High
Real Name
Wow! I knew it was a long movie. I didn't realize it was almost 5 hours.

The Drifter

Jan 29, 2019
Real Name
I just saw UTTOTW on the Criterion Disk. Amazing film. What a incredible story, with incredible visuals - beautiful. The much longer cut is fantastic, and fills in a lot of the "blanks" that were missing in the original theatrical cut.

When I first heard about the Criterion Disk coming out, I wanted all of the cuts to be available in the set. However, after seeing this almost 5-hour version & realizing how important it is that all of these scenes are included - I really feel any other versions of the film are extraneous. I.e., I feel that this longer version is really the only cut that needs to be seen by an audience. Not only are there are lot more relevant scenes included than in the theatrical release - but the music is featured much more...and this is critical to the film.

Really enjoyed the retro/futuristic/road-trip/dystopian story-line. There was obviously a lot of meticulous attention paid to detail re: the "look" of the film, the colors, the now-retro tech, etc. And, though the tech is definitely dated by today's standards, IMHO this just adds to the film's charm.

The voice-over/narration by Eugene (Sam Neill) was very effective; I don't feel the film would have been as good without this. I can't remember if this was also in the original theatrical cut.

Though the film came out in 1991, I liked how it was almost prescient in predicting the nervousness/concern many of us had about Y2K; the addiction to the Internet/I-phones re: the devices that Claire (Solveig Dommartin) & Sam (Hurt) got addicted to so that they could keep seeing their "dreams" over and over, etc.

Also, in the very beginning of the film - after Claire wakes up from a long night of partying in Venice, Italy...the driver of the gondola she takes is wearing a COVID-like mask...presumably because of the smell?! In any case, this was eerie.

The soundtrack was truly sublime; I remember buying the CD back in the '90's & listening to this repeatedly. Great tracks by: The Talking Heads, U2, Neneh Cherry, Julee Cruise/Elvis Presley, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, R.E.M., etc. It's notable that this extended film features tracks that weren't on the CD.

This was one of my most-wanted films to have on DVD/Blu for many years. Prior to this recent viewing, the only time I saw this was on the old VHS tape circa 1993; I rented it from an out-of-the-way video store & really enjoyed the movie. But, I had no easy way to see it again - until now.

Kudos to Wenders, Criterion, and everyone else involved in bringing this extended/director's cut to home video.

I feel this is Wenders' best film, and definitely one of my top five favorite '90's movies.
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