Last and First Men: First and Last Film by the Late Jóhan Jóhannson

Icelandic composer Jóhan Jóhannsson's first and unfortunately last feature film, Last and First Men, whose narration is supported by Tilda Swinton, will have its Canadian premiere in the FNC's "Les nouveaux alchimistes" section.

Last and First Men reshapes the brutalist architecture of the former Yugoslavia of the era of President Tito, in a context where a new human society, millennia after our time, is preparing to face its own extinction. Swinton recites passages from Olaf Stapledon's 1930 science fiction novel of the same name in front of Jóhannsson's 16mm black and white architectural images.

True to the spirit of the novel, Jóhannsson's film reflects on post-humanism and the themes of ecology and religion. The brutalist Spomeniks, the forgotten monumental sculptures of the Tito era, lost in the wilderness in the four corners of the former Yugoslavia, are the only real filmed subjects of this 70-minute feature film with no characters or linear narrative. They give the film the air of a decadent parallel world, and question our relationship to history and heritage.

Thus, Last and First Men calls for a poetic and contemplative, meditative and existential experience, where architecture, at first a vestige of a seemingly distant past, becomes a vector for profoundly current reflections on the future.

Despite the fact that this is his first feature film, Jóhannsson's work has been appreciated for years by film buffs all over the world. The latter has notably signed the soundtracks of Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival by Denis Villeneuve. More recently, his compositions for Marie Madeline by Garth Davis and Mandy by Panos Cosmatos have been acclaimed in the last two years. They will be remembered as the last witnesses to the composer's talent, published posthumously in 2018, the year of his death.

Last and First Men was first presented as a multimedia project by the composer in collaboration with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 2017, and then premiered at the last Berlinale. Its Canadian premiere at the CNF will certainly satisfy Canadian audiences eager for unusual cinematographic objects, thought-provoking science fiction, and staging of dreadfully poetic architecture.

The lineup of "Les nouveaux alchimistes" will be unveiled on September 3rd and the full Festival lineup will be unveiled on September 29.

See the list of films announced for our 49th edition

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