Before his death in 2018, Icelandic director and composer Johann Jóhannsson –director of Arrival and The Theory of Everything–adapted Last and First Men, a “future history” by British science-fiction author Olaf Stapledon –a “film that straddles the border of fiction and documentary. It is a meditation on memory and failed utopia.” The story –a channeled text from the last human species–describes the history of humanity from the present across two billion years and eighteen distinct human species, of which our own is the first.
The Berlinale describes Last and First Men as “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.”
The film began as a multimedia project in 2017 with imagery of Brutalist architecture accompanied by an orchestra and a narration from actress Tina Swinton. The film version of the project premiered at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival.
Image credits: Courtesy of Berlinale