MIDWAY THROUGH THE second half of Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World, the movie’s narrator, Eugene (Sam Neill), plays music with a group of characters in an Australian village. Eugene is on piano, his friend David (David Gulpilil) plays the didgeridoo, a German private investigator (Rüdiger Vogler) wails on a harmonica, and a French bank robber (Chick Ortega) plays drums while they wait anxiously for news about the destruction of a nuclear satellite, which, we’re told, would bring about Armageddon.
Eugene reflects on the journey that’s led the group here and realizes this communal moment of joy in the face of fear is its apex. He calls it “a prayer for the wounded earth.” In many ways, this 1991 global sci-fi odyssey, recently released in a director’s cut by the Criterion Collection, feels like exactly that. It’s a prayer for not only its fictional future earth but the self-involved world we live in now, a world drunk on idealized images of ourselves.