NZIFF 2020 – Last And First Men REVIEW
Director – Jóhann Jóhannsson
Starring – No one
Before his untimely death in 2018 acclaimed film composer Jóhann Jóhannsson made a movie. That rotter GARY STEEL is very unkind about it.
I know it’s not the done thing to speak ill of the dead, but what a dud! The late cellist and film composer Jóhann Jóhannsson obviously had ambitions to direct his only movie, but Last And First Men proves he should have stuck to what he knew best.
If your idea of a good time is watching inexorably slow camera pans in black and white over indeterminate, slightly mysterious structures/sculptures, while a painfully theatrical Tilda Swinton reads a pretentious story, then go for it.
The story is adapted from a 1930s book by Olaf Stapleton and we’re told that the voice speaking is a species from millions of years into the future; one which evolved from humans after we escaped our own planet and headed out to colonise space in an effort to survive and prosper. Except the message is bad: the voice from the future is announcing that all life will soon be extinguished.
Oh, okay. That might have made a deliciously dumb sci-fi pic in the tradition of Plan 9 From Outer Space, but Jóhannsson decided instead to simply use a voiceover with visuals that are pleasant enough but hardly warrant close attention over 70 minutes. An interminable 70 minutes, I might add. I mean, I literally screamed at the screen at relief when the fucking thing finished.
The one saving grace of Last And First Men is Jóhannsson’s music, which is fittingly dark and doomy and concentrates itself largely on the low end of the string section. Listen deeply into it and you’ll hear a echoes of Arvo Pärt’s holy minimalism and even traces of New York classical minimalism.
Perhaps Last And First Men should come with instructions to roll up a big dooby and settle down with a big bag of crisps and an ice-cream and a tub of popcorn. It might come alive with hallucinogens, but I watched it stone cold sober and it came across as the biggest load of bollocks I’ve seen in a long time.
And what about the women?
* Last And First Men is available to stream online from August 2 to August 8.
Check out Witchdoctor’s New Zealand International Film Festival reviews: