If you know the name Jóhann Jóhannsson then you know his music. The Icelandic composer was behind some of the best scores in recent memory, working often with Denis Villeneuve on Arrival, Sicario, and Prisoners. Sadly, his final two scores for Mandy and Mary Magdalene were released posthumously as he died suddenly in 2018. However, he managed to complete what would be his final feature film as a director, Last and First Men, which is finally being released next week.
Based on the 1930 sci-fi novel by Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men is a unique film, shot in black and white 16mm and narrated by Tilda Swinton. It charts the entire history of humanity from now to 2 billion years in the future, captured mainly in memorial structures of the former Yugoslavia. Jóhannsson provided the score, of course.
The film debuted at the Berlin Film Festival last year, where it received rave reviews. Sadly, the promise Jóhannsson showed will not be seen again, but at least we have his many film scores and this example of his talent behind the camera.
Last and First Men opens in select theaters and VOD on December 10th.
Two billion years in the future, humanity finds itself on the verge of extinction. Almost all that remains are lone, surreal monuments—the futuristic, solemn, Brutalist stone slabs erected during the communist era in the former Yugoslav republics, arrestingly photographed in luminous 16mm black-and-white. A stunning feature debut and final cinematic testament from the late composer and musician Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, Arrival, Mandy) conjures a world of surreal and phantasmagorical monuments, once intended as symbols of unity and brotherhood, now abandoned beacons beaming their message into the wilderness. Based on the cult 1930 science fiction novel by British author Olaf Stapledon, with narration by Tilda Swinton, Last and First Men is a poetic, hopeful, and tragic work: an allegory of remembrance, ideals, and the death of Utopia.