Brussels Philharmonic | last and first men

last and first men

"I think Last and First Men will live on in many different incarnations"

Back in 2010, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson had been releasing music as a solo artist for just over ten years, crafting haunting, elegiac concept albums about lost utopias that combined weeping orchestral arrangements with subtle, pattering electronics and impassive disembodied voices.

He’d simultaneously been composing soundtracks for film and TV, and directing Super 8 and 16mm shorts that he projected at his concerts. He also found himself wondering when he’d ever get to make that grand movie of his own. ‘I’d never really found an idea that propelled me,’ he said, ‘and then I saw it. The idea. There. Fully formed.’

The idea was contained within the pages of a 2010 art book by the Dutch photographer Jan Kempenaers. Entitled Spomenik, Kempenaers’ book contained glossy full-colour prints of the huge, brutalist war memorials erected in the former Republic of Yugoslavia between the 1960s and the 1980s, but no accompanying text.

[read the digital programme book]



The serene voice of Tilda Swinton fast forwards two billion years in time, when humanity is on the brink of extinction. All that remains are monuments spread across a desolate landscape - shimmering beneath the alienating images is Jóhannson’s impressive film music.

25.03.2023 at Flagey, Klarafestival 2023

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