Last And First Men, the debut and only feature film directed by the Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, narrated by Tilda Swinton, which was completed posthumously, has been released on the BFI Player.
Last And First Men, which premiered at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival, developed over many years and was completed by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s collaborators after his death in 2018 aged 48. The film, a dystopian sci-fi, tells the story of a future race of humans on the verge of extinction. Almost all that is left in the world are lone and surreal monuments, beaming their message into the wilderness. Jóhann Jóhannsson artfully combines music, image and narration (voiced by Tilda Swinton), to form a powerful meditation on memory and loss.
Jóhann Jóhannsson described Last And First Men as “a film that straddles the border of fiction and documentary. It is a meditation on memory and failed Utopia, contextualized through the literary mode of science fiction.”
The project was conceived a decade ago as an idea for a film inspired by Olaf Stapledon’s eponymous cult science-fiction novel, and by Antwerp-based photographer Jan Kempenaers’ Spomenik, a collection of mystical images of brutalist war monuments built on the sites of World War Two massacres and concentration camps in the republics of the former Yugoslavia.
Jóhann Jóhannsson’s mesmerising orchestral score is set to 16mm black and white footage shot by cinematographer and co-producer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen. The concept for Last And First Men is based on Jóhann Jóhannsson’s multimedia work of the same name which premiered at the Manchester International Festival in 2017.
Jóhann Jóhannsson won a Golden Globe for Best Original Score in 2015 for his work on The Theory Of Everything, the story of Stephen Hawking, and Oscar nominations for his scores for both Sicario and The Theory Of Everything. He also received BAFTA nominations for both these scores and for Arrival. The soundtrack to Last And First Men was released digitally and on CD and vinyl earlier this year.
The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. BFI Player, the greatest global cinema on demand, features new releases to watch on rental and a subscription service expertly curated by BFI programmers and special guests, offering classic and cult films.
Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Last And First Men is now available on the BFI Player.