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The search for truth and affirmation has marked Wim Wenders’s career

to date. Trevor Johnston talks to the German director about his latest work, Until The End Of The World.

Already tagged ‘the ultimate road movie‘. Wim Wenders‘s Until The End Of The World is a futuristic rock‘n‘roll-powered odyssey across. around and above the globe. Wandering rootlessness has been a recurring theme in the I German‘s work. and this latest and most ambitious l offering covers even more mileage in the quest for a personal identity at the end of the existential rainbow.

Set in 1999, the film follows Solveig Dommartin‘s heroine Claire Tourneur as she leaves behind Paris-based novelist Eugene (Sam Neill) and hits the road with a mysterious fugitive named Trevor (William Hurt), discovering only too late that her newfound love is something of a wanted man. With various bank-robbers. private detectives and bounty hunters in hot pursuit. the couple criss-cr oss continents from Europe to Siberia, Tokyo to San Francisco, but it’s only when they reach Australia that tricky Trev‘s enigmatic identity becomes clear and his strange obsession with taking photographs starts to make sense. As worldwide crisis boils over into nuclear . confrontation, the action shifts to Trevor‘s father‘s underground laboratory deep in the outback, where Max Von Sydow‘s eccentric scientist edges ever closer to the technological breakthrough that will restore the gift of vision to his blind wife (Jeanne Moreau).

Definitely one for the bulging file marked ‘flawed masterpiece‘. for all its engaging late 90s hardware and to-die-for soundtrack (REM. U2. Talking Heads, Nick Cave. et al), the film never quite recovers from an awkardly broken-backed structure resulting from its lengthy gestation period. Inspired by the rich red landscape around Ayres Rock, Wenders wrote the original draft for the film’s final section as far back as 1977, before trotting off to Francis Coppola‘s Zoetrope Studios : for Hammett and before hooking up with current a personal and professional leading lady . Dommartin. i

‘In the meantime,‘ the director takes up the thread, ‘Solveig and I had started writing another 5 movie together. which was a sort ofvariation on 3 Peer Gynt except that the heroine doesn‘t stay at home for fifty years but goes off after her man. It was around 1985 and we were in Australia scouting locations when suddenly the two separate scripts

came together and couldn‘t be prised apart. All

a?‘ \w‘ E“, {rink Until The End at The World: ‘one lorthe bulging tile marked "flawed masterpiece”.'

the travelling in Solveig‘s story made sense because now we had a real destination at the end of it. and the interior journey that we were confronting in the sci-fi script was put into context by the odyssey the characters had been through to get there.‘ '

It took over two years to persuade novelist Peter Carey to agree to knock the already elephantine screenplay into some sort ofshape (he wanted to polish off Oscar and Lucinda first). during which time Wenders and Dommartin put together Wings ofl)esire themselves. This meant the distance from inception to going into production grew ever more extended, but for Wenders the most draining experience of all was undoubtably the gruelling shooting period. ‘()n the longest movie I‘d made before. we had a schedule of5f) shooting days. but this one took us 120 days,‘ he sighs. ‘lt seemed as if it was never going to end and we were going from country to country to country on a very tight itinerary that couldn‘t be shifted, not even by an hour. We really underestimated the fatigue that would set in.‘

‘I think we’ve all accepted the way in which our image culture - that’s W, films, video and computers combined has invaded previously private areas like sex, violence and death.’

Ironically, on screen the lengthy transglobal chase that takes up the film‘s first half runs at a frenetic pace and is rather unadvisedly played for laughs (hardly Wenders‘s forte). but after an abrupt shift in tone. a much more intriguing project thankfully emerges with the meditative concluding passages. In the depths of Professor Von Sydow‘s lab, Wenders introduces the striking notion that ‘the biochemical event ofvision‘ might be recorded and recreated, and thus begins a process which not only enables the sightless


Moreau to see, but allows the other characters to make videotapes of their dreams.

As a result. almost all concerned develop an overwhelming obsession with the mental pictures that haunt them. and such material needed the very latest advances in technology to bring it to the

cinema screen. Having assembled a showreel of some 28 hours ofdream sequences from other movies. Wenders came to the conclusion that ‘they‘ve never really been given a film language significantly different from the various movies in which they were included.‘ His subsequent search for the requisite visual texture took him to the High Definition TV edit suite at NHK in Tokyo. where he was first to use the facilities before Peter Greenaway arrived to start work on the equally striking I’rospero '5 Books.

In spite of its digitally generated splendours. however. Wenders‘s film is no paean to the

characters‘ narcissistic and eventually debilitating fascination with their own inner visions ‘the disease of images‘ a resonant analogy for the power of the cinema to worm its way into our very ' nerve ends. but also an arch comment on the future of audio-visual innovation.

‘I think we‘ve all accepted the way in which our image culture that‘s TV. films, video and computers combined has invaded previously private areas like sex. violence and death. The dream machine in Until The [ind ()f'l'he World is pointing the way to the last barrier. when the technology will begin to look directly into the human mind. The whole thing is a metaphor about 1999. It‘s something that we can look forward to.

I but yet we can clearly already see people with the 5 symptoms. I mean. I couldn‘t make a film about it I if I wasn‘t some kind ofsufferer myself!‘

Until The End Of The World opens at the Edinburgh Cameo on I’ri51une and at the

Glasgow Film Theatre on Sun 7June.


' Summerinthe City (1971) The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty (1972) The Scarlet Letter (1972)

A Alice in the Cities (1974)

Wrong Move (1975)

5 Kings of the Road (1976)

The American Friend (1977)

Lightning 0verWaler(1980) L Hammett(1982)

The State of Thlngs (1982) Paris, Texas (1984) Wings of Desire (1987)

. Until The End Of The World (1992)

14ThenList5—18June 1992


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