The Icelandic director Jóhann Jóhannsson calls his film LAST AND FIRST MEN a dystopian sound play. It can be seen at the GoEast film festival in Wiesbaden (or at least online until April 26, 2021). The festival heralds the film as both a documentary and a drama, and the mix of fictional and documentary forms also applies. „Listen patiently: We who are the last men, earnestly desire to communicate with you“, we hear Tilda Swinton tell from the off in her incredibly calming voice. The beguiling sounds, the slow tracking shots and zooms, the rough, grainy black and white, the brutalist, reduced concrete architecture that we see pull us into the film immediately and paralyze us. „I am speaking to you now, from a period about two thousand million terrestrial years in your future,“ announces Tilda Swinton, not to announce anything more significant than the imminent extinction of humanity.
Eighteen generations of human species have traveled the solar system during that time. Well, at the end of time, the last specimens of the human species look back on their history. Tilda Swinton remembers the past decades, centuries, millennia and more. In summary, she states: There was no paradise. But there was constant change, with times of joy and times of sorrow. And the permanent danger of losing our livelihoods.
Jóhannsson succeeds in creating an irresistible, tempting work, a kind of documentary film about everything, about the entire history of mankind, not in excessive details, but in the representation of the level above, which finally sums up the principle of being human. This broad view, the widest of all views, forces us to be humble, reveals our insignificance. LAST AND FIRST MEN is also something like the final fictional film, the all-inclusive science fiction film that encompasses all the stories of humanity.
“We live through all the mistakes of thought and action that humankind has ever made,” Swinton’s voice sums up our fallibility. And for a moment, all the hardships of everyday life seem so insignificant to us.
LAST AND FIRST MEN
Documentary | Drama | Iceland 2020
Directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Available online until April 26, 2021 at the GoEast Film Festival