Last and First Men

There are no people in Last and First Men, but the film does feature three very special protagonists: the concrete testimonies of Yugoslavian brutalism, Tilda Swinton’s voice and the music of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, who composed the soundtracks for Sicario and Arrival and who died in 2018 at the age of 48. Jóhannsson made several Super 8 and 16mm shorts and often used visual elements when performing his musical works. The idea for his first feature-length film came to him in 2010 when he saw Dutch photographer Jan Kempenaers’ images of the colossal monuments of the Tito era. Jóhannsson, an avid reader of science fiction, accompanies his 16mm black-and-white footage with excerpts from British author and philosopher Olaf Stapledon’s eponymous visionary 1930 novel, read ethereally by Tilda Swinton. Last and First Men is a hypnotic total work of art, a requiem for the universe containing echoes of Kubrick, Tarr and the avant-garde that turns cinema into a pure synthesis of sounds and images; a place of the impossible, where the deepest past meets the most distant future.
by Jóhann Jóhannsson
with Tilda Swinton
Iceland 2019 English 70’ Black/White, 2K DCP World premiere Documentary form


  • Tilda Swinton (Voice)


DirectorJóhann Jóhannsson
ScreenplayJóhann Jóhannsson, José Enrique Macián, based on the novel by Olaf Stapledon
CinematographySturla Brandth Grøvlen
EditingMark Bukdahl
MusicJóhann Jóhannsson, Yair Elazar Glotman
Sound DesignJana Irmert
SoundPeter Albrechtsen
Production ManagerRosalie Vos
ProducersJóhann Jóhannsson, Thor Sigurjonsson, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
Executive ProducersTim Husom, Karolina Jóhannsdottir
Associate ProducerLouise Højgaard Johansen

Produced by

Jóhann Jóhannsson

The Icelandic composer and filmmaker (1969-2018) published his first solo album “Englabörn” in 2002. He wrote the score for a number of films, including several by Denis Villeneuve. In 2015, he won the Golden Globe for Best Original Score for his work on the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. In the same year, he made his debut short film as a director, End of Summer. Last and First Men is based on a multimedia work which was presented as a live performance at the Manchester International Festival in 2017 and involved the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.


2015 End of Summer; Short Film 2019 Last and First Men

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2020