Before he departed this world in 2018, Icelandic composer Jóhan Jóhannsson (Arrival) left behind this compelling evidence that his astonishing talents weren’t limited to the realms of music. His directorial debut/swan song comes by its Kubrick and Tarkovsky comparisons honestly. Furthermore, global circumstances have seen that the science-fiction spun here has become far more "plausible" than "speculative".

Through narration voiced by Tilda Swinton and adapted from Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 novel, we’re positioned two billion years in the future. As we gaze upon towering brutalist monoliths, we learn that humanity is all out of borrowed time. Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s (Victoria) stunning 16mm black and white cinematography and Jóhannsson’s characteristically towering score conspire to elicit genuine awe as Last and First Men amasses emotional heft with each successive passage.

Ultimately, Jóhannsson has bestowed upon us one of the most immersive cinematic experiences in recent memory. You are right to mourn his loss, but don’t let that prohibit you from indulging in the dizzying wonder imparted by this stunningly realized union of sound and vision.

Canadian premiere
Director Icon Director
Jóhann Jóhannsson

Tilda Swinton
Executive Producer Tim Husom, Karólína Jóhannsdottir
Producer Jóhann Jóhannsson, Thor S. Sigurjonsson, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Screenwriter Jóhann Jóhannsson, José Enrique Macián
Cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Editor Mark Bukdahl
Music Jóhann Jóhannsson, Yair Elazar Glotman
Production Company Zik Zak Filmworks
Source Films Boutique
Iceland 2020 70 min. 16mm English Official Website | Review 1 | Review 2 | Trailer


Please note that VIFF 2020 online films can be viewed in British Columbia only.

Johannsson, Johann headshot


Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969–2018) was a prolific composer, who wrote music for a wide array of media including theatre, dance, television and films. His work blends classical instrumentation with electronic elements. Albums include Englabörn; Fordlândia; IBM 1401 – A User’s Manual and Orphée. Film scores include The Miners’ Hymns, Prisoners, the Golden Globe winning The Theory of Everything, and Arrival. Last and First Men premiered as a live multimedia performance at the Manchester International Festival in 2017.

Photo: ©Jónatan Grétarsson