When it comes to science fiction adaptations, one name you don’t hear much about is British author Olaf Stapledon, who began writing genre novels in the 1930s, with stories like Last and First Men, Odd John, Star Maker, and others.
Interestingly, his book Last and First Men is the inspiration for the directoral debut of Jóhann Jóhannsson, the late Icelandic composer known for his work on films such as Sicario, Arrival, and The Theory of Everything.
Tragically, Jóhannsson died in 2018, but before his death, he had an acclaimed career as a musician and composer. One of his final projects before his death was his take on Last and First Men, which began as a multimedia project in 2017. The film featured imagery of Brutalist architecture, and was accompanied by an orchestra and a narration from actress Tilda Swinton. Jóhannsson directed and scored the project, and the full score for the film is set to be released on February 28th.
The film version of the project is set to premiere tomorrow at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival, and Jóhannsson described the project as a “film that straddles the border of fiction and documentary. It is a meditation on memory and failed utopia, contextualized through the literary mode of science fiction.”
I first came across his music in the trailer for Jonathan Liebesman’s 2011 film Battle Los Angeles, which used his song “Part 5/ The Sun’s Gone Dim And The Sky’s Turned Black” from his 2006 album IBM 1401, A User’s Manual.
His film scores were also outstanding, particularly Sicario and Arrival, both of which wonderfully complemented their respective films, providing a tense and gloomy atmosphere. He had worked on the score for Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 in 2017, but was later replaced by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.
This sounds like an utterly fantastic film—a science fiction deep cut with a killer score to accompany it. Hopefully, it’ll surface at some point in the US.