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Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work as a film composer transcended expectations of the craft, not only supporting a filmmaker’s vision but clarifying its appeal. His dynamic, soul-churning music for “Sicario,” “Arrival,” and “Mandy” reached for a visceral depth that suggested he might become one of the all-time greats. Sadly, the Icelandic talent died in 2018 at the age of 48, but not before completing one final achievement that elevated his artistry to a whole new level.
“Last and First Men,” which Jóhannsson directed as a live multimedia performance prior to his death, has been finally completed as a singular 70-minute cinematic event. Guided by Jóhannsson’s ethereal score, this dazzling apocalyptic immersion blends cosmic 16mm black-and-white images of Yugoslavian architecture with a deadpan Tilda Swinton voiceover, resulting in a profound lyrical rumination on the end of days. Its posthumous existence injects the message with additional poignance: The movie is a testament to the strength of wisdom more powerful than death itself. —EK