Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
Join Daniel for the swashbuckling adventure 'Peter Pan' on a brand new episode of Ink & Paint - click here to listen now!x
review, Last and First Men, Last, and, First, Men, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Tilda Swinton, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi film rating

LAST AND FIRST MEN

★★★

AN AEON-SPANNING ARTHOUSE SCI-FI TALE

BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Jake Watt
11th October 2020

When I first read Olaf Stapledon's science fiction classic 'Last and First Men', I was blown away by the ideas presented in a book that was published in 1930. While some of the science certainly doesn't hold up (although I did like the fliers and the guys with the big ears), the mind experiment that Stapledon goes through to present the complete future history of mankind is trippy and, at times, incredibly prescient.

I think it's an amazing novel. Then again, I love stories that span vast amounts of time. Stapledon adopts vast historical perspectives to show the entire history of our humanity and its greatly altered descendants and of the whole history of intelligent life in the galaxy. However, it's also pretty dry speculative fiction and often reads like a textbook. It's a tough piece of writing to adapt to film, but this is what Jóhann Jóhannsson (the much-celebrated Icelandic composer of such films as 'Sicario', 'Arrival' and 'Mandy') chose for his debut as a director before he sadly passed away at the age of 48.

'LAST AND FIRST MEN' TRAILER

Shooting on 16mm black and white film, Jóhannsson uses cinematographer's Sturla Brandth Grøvlen's compositions of the otherworldly sculptures and structures that can be found across the former Yugoslavia landscape as the visual element of his exhibition piece. These aesthetically-soothing geometric artifacts are the only thing we see, with a variety of shots circling in, tracking close and getting lost in the shapes of the buildings and statues.

Layered over the imagery is narration by Tilda Swinton, a survivor of an advanced species who is beaming the history of the 18 distinct species of humans from some two billion years into the future. It's something that you could have imagined David Bowie pulling off if 'Last and First Men' had been filmed five years ago (his final album, 'Blackstar', held out the universal promise of the endless possibilities that can be found in vast emptiness of space).

The third element of the film is Jóhannsson's music, composed alongside Yair Elazar Glotman. Deep, ominous choirs mixed with booming bass and high-pitched strings colour this tale as one of looming doom and destruction, but also one filled with touches of hope and an optimism that destiny might be changed. It is a great pity that we'll never hear a piece of music again from a composer who was capable of stirring an incredible sense of empathy, atmosphere, and mood through their work.

Layered over the imagery is narration by Tilda Swinton, it's something that you could have imagined David Bowie pulling off if 'Last and First Men' had been filmed five years ago.

The closest cinematic reference point for Jóhannsson's film is Chris Marker's 'La Jetée' (1963), a post-apocalyptic science fiction short told through an assemblage of gorgeous black and white stills, which shows a devastated Paris in the aftermath of World War III, the few survivors scurrying underground due to radiation levels on the surface. In this film, a man is chosen to embark on an experimental time travel mission to find a solution to humanity's dire situation, but temporal folds prove to be tricky.

Like Marker's 'La Jetée', Jóhannsson combines visuals, narration and music together to create a massive sense of scale, and conveys a tragic view of life worked out across aeons.

'Last and First Men' is definitely not for everyone. A lot of people will view it as an aimless art flick that will test their patience. Personally, I think it's the kind of film that is perfect for a marijuana movie night (see: 'Here Comes Hell' for further reference). If you're in the right mood, it's a science fiction film that provides the framework for your imagination to run wild. In a genre often dominated by bombastic epics like 'Interstellar' and 'Ad Astra', that kind of filmmaking is increasingly rare.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RUN TIME: 1h 10m
CAST: Tilda Swinton
DIRECTOR: Jóhann Jóhannsson
PRODUCERS: Thor Sigurjonsson
Jóhann Jóhannsson
Sturla Brandth Grøvlen
SCORE: Johann Johannsson, Yair Elazar Glotman
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Looking for more Brisbane International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
A Christmas Gift from Bob - A true story of the festive spirit
TRENDINGWIN A CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM BOBA true story of the festive spirit
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse - Fairly brainless
TRENDINGSCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSEFairly brainless
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Rams - Baaa-ck off
TRENDINGRAMSBaaa-ck off
Australia's past, present and future - Celebrating NAIDOC Week with the best Indigenous films
TRENDINGAUSTRALIA'S PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURECelebrating NAIDOC Week with the best Indigenous films
25 Free-to-Watch Short Horror Films - The scariest shorts we uncovered online
TRENDING25 FREE-TO-WATCH SHORT HORROR FILMSThe scariest shorts we uncovered online
David Fincher, ranked - The darkness and the soul of a legendary filmmaker
TRENDINGDAVID FINCHER, RANKEDThe darkness and the soul of a legendary filmmaker
The Secrets We Keep - They kept a big secret... this movie is mediocre
TRENDINGTHE SECRETS WE KEEPThey kept a big secret... this movie is mediocre
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
Ip Man: Kung Fu Master - An adequate actioner
TRENDINGIP MAN: KUNG FU MASTERAn adequate actioner
Lion - A raw and powerful journey of identity
TRENDINGLIONA raw and powerful journey of identity
David Byrne's American Utopia - One of the greatest concert films ever made
TRENDINGDAVID BYRNE'S AMERICAN UTOPIAOne of the greatest concert films ever made
Never Rarely Sometimes Always - The film every teenager needs to see
TRENDINGNEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYSThe film every teenager needs to see
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge - An animated gorefest for aggressive preschoolers
TRENDINGMORTAL KOMBAT LEGENDS: SCORPION'S REVENGEAn animated gorefest for aggressive preschoolers
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale - An extremely silly zomedy
TRENDINGTHE ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE ON SALEAn extremely silly zomedy
Leftover Women - Feminists beware, this one's a blood boiler
TRENDINGLEFTOVER WOMENFeminists beware, this one's a blood boiler
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Wet Woman in the Wind - A sexy struggle for conquest
TRENDINGWET WOMAN IN THE WINDA sexy struggle for conquest
Basic Instinct - 25 years of the erotic thriller
TRENDINGBASIC INSTINCT25 years of the erotic thriller
Pinocchio - A darkly fantastic adaptation of a classic tale
TRENDINGPINOCCHIOA darkly fantastic adaptation of a classic tale
© 2011 - 2020 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us