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Jóhann Jóhannsson’s First and Final Directorial Feature ‘Last and First Men’ Heads to Berlinale

The full lineup for the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival will be revealed later this month.

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jónatan Grétarsson

The late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is set to return posthumously at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival with the world premiere of a project he directed himself, “Last and First Men,” narrated by Tilda Swinton. The movie is one of several titles announced for Berlinale 2020 ahead of the full lineup reveal later this month. Additional titles heading to Berlin in February include Matteo Garrone’s “Pinocchio,” Nanette Burstein’s “Hillary,” Agnieszka Holland’s “Charlatan,” and Jia Zhang-ke’s “Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue.” Television projects from Jason Segal and Damien Chazelle will also be screened in the Berlinale Series program.

Jóhannsson scored back to back Oscar nominations for Best Original Score in 2015 and 2016 thanks to his music for “The Theory of Everything” and “Sicario.” The latter was one of several collaborations between Jóhannsson and Denis Villeneuve. Jóhannsson’s other score credits include Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” and “Arrival,” plus “Mandy” and “The Mercy.” Jóhannsson died in February 2018 at the age of 48. Jóhannsson served as a mentor to Hildur Guðnádottir, who recently won a Golden Globe and earned an Oscar nomination for her “Joker” original score.

Jóhannsson’s “Last and First Man” got its start as a touring multimedia project that would screen at concert halls along with a live orchestral score composed by Jóhannsson himself. “Last and First Man” played such venues as Barbican Hall in London and the Sydney Opera House in Australia and now heads to Berlinale as a proper feature film complete with a recorded score. The project is based on Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 sci-fi novel of the same name and Dutch photographer Jan Kempenaers’ 2010 art book “Spomeniks.” Per Barbican Hall’s official website, Jóhannsson spent a month traveling through the Balkans and filming spomeniks, war monuments built on the site of massacres and concentration camps. Jóhannsson shot the film on 16mm black-and-white film and worked on the project with Norwegian cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (“Victoria,” “Rams”).

“We wanted to film these sculptures in a very formalistic manner,” Jóhannsson said at the time, “to emphasize their strange asymmetrical beauty. We woke every morning at four o’clock to be ready for the sunrise and stayed outside filming all day until there was no light. It was one of the most happy experiences in my life, and one of the most grueling.”

“Last and First Men” marks Jóhannsson’s first and final feature film. Read IndieWire’s 2018 interview with the composer to learn more about his feature directorial debut. The composer previously directed the documentary short film “End of Summer.” Check out the new additions to the 2020 Berlin Film Festival below.

Czech Republic / Ireland / Poland / Slovakia
by Agnieszka Holland
with Ivan Trojan, Josef Trojan, Juraj Loj, Jaroslava Pokorná
World Premiere

United Kingdom
by Andrew Levitas
with Johnny Depp, Hiroyuki Sanada, Minami, Bill Nighy
World premiere

by Nanette Burstein
International premiere / Documentary series

“Last and First Men”
by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Narrated by Tilda Swinton
World premiere / Documentary form

“Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue”
People’s Republic of China
by Jia Zhang-ke
World premiere / Documentary form

Italy / France
by Matteo Garrone
with Roberto Benigni
International Premiere

Berlinale Series 2020

“Happily Married”
Creator: François Létourneau
Showrunner: Joanne Forgues
Director: Jean-François Rivard
with François Létourneau, Patrice Robitaille, Marylin Castonguay, Karine Gonthier-Hydman, Sophie Desmarais
Broadcaster: Radio-Canada Télé, Tou.Tv Extra
World premiere
Episodes 1 and 2 of 10, in total 86’

“Dispatches from Elsewhere”
Creator: Jason Segel
Directors: Jason Segel (Ep. 1), Wendey Stanzler (Ep. 2)
with Jason Segel, Eve Lindley, Sally Field, André Benjamin, Richard E. Grant
Broadcaster: AMC
World premiere
Episodes 1 and 2 of 10, in total 120’

“The Eddy”
Creator: Jack Thorne
Directors: Damien Chazelle (Ep. 1-2), Houda Benyamina (Ep. 3-4), Laila Marrakchi (Ep. 5-6), Alan Poul (Ep. 7-8)
with André Holland, Joanna Kulig, Amandla Stenberg, Tahar Rahim, Leila Bekhti, Adil Dehbi, Benjamin Biolay
Broadcaster: Netflix
World premiere
Episodes 1 and 2 of 8, in total 136’

Austria / Germany / Czech Republic
Director: Marvin Kren
with Robert Finster, Ella Rumpf, Georg Friedrich, Christoph Krutzler, Brigitte Kren, Anja Kling, Philipp Hochmair, Noah Saavedra
Broadcaster: ORF, Netflix
World premiere
Episodes 1-3 of 8, in total 167’

“Mystery Road 2”
Creator: Ivan Sen
Directors: Warwick Thornton, Wayne Blair
with Aaron Pedersen, Jada Alberts, Sofia Helin, Callan Mulvey
Broadcaster: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
World premiere
Episode 1 and 2 of 6, in total 110’

Creator: Clara Mendes
Director: Amalie Næsby Fick
with Asta Kamma August, Jonathan Bergholdt Jørgensen, Nina Terese Rask, Sara Fanta Traore
Broadcaster: TV 2 Denmark
International premiere
Complete short-form series, 6 episodes, in total 77’

Creators: Cate Blanchett, Elise McCredie, Tony Ayres
Directors: Emma Freeman (Ep. 1-3), Jocelyn Moorhouse (Ep. 4-6)
with Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, Dominic West, Cate Blanchett
Broadcaster: Australian Broadcasting Corporation
World premiere
Episode 1 and 2 of 6, in total 107’

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