Last and First Men (Zik Zak Filmworks, February 2020)
Just watched Last and First Men (2020), an Icelandic sci-fi film by the late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson who sadly died two years before the film’s release. It is based on the 1930 novel Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future by British writer Olaf Stapledon, and rather than employing a typical film narrative, Jóhannsson chose to present a meditation on the theme, with Tilda Swinton’s voice-over combined with a haunting score and stark, black and white images of forgotten monuments shot in grainy 16mm.
Swinton begins by saying “Listen patiently,” and you must be patient, in fact you might do well to approach it as an audiobook with a visual montage. The images are of inhospitable landscapes studded with brutalist architecture and the iconography of an extinct race (us) set two billion years in the future.
It’s fascinating, somewhat hypnotic, beautifully made, and worth 71 minutes of your time if you need a quiet moment alone with Tilda’s voice.
Neil Baker’s last article for us was the Warrior Women Watch-a-thon. He is an author, illustrator, outdoor educator and owner of April Moon Books (AprilMoonBooks.com). His most recent books include the science fiction anthology The Stars at my Door and A Picnic at the Mountains of Madness. He currently lives near Toronto with his family and is officially an old fart.