Jóhann Jóhannsson's Uncanny New World


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Jóhann Jóhannsson's Uncanny New World

The Icelandic composer tells us about his new score for 'Arrival', a unique challenge in a terrifying age.

In the last few years, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has demonstrated a marked savvy when it comes to film scores—and he's been lauded accordingly. His composition for 2014's The Theory of Everything garnered him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations (he won the latter), and the following year he received his second Oscar nod thanks to his score for Denis Villenueve's Sicario. And this Sunday he'll find out if he'll walk away with another Golden Globe statuette for his work on Arrival, Villenueve's cerebral, nuanced take on alien sci-fi.


In fact Arrival is the third project on which Jóhannsson and the French-Canadian director have partnered—a relationship that began with the 2013 thriller Prisoners. In all three collaborations, Jóhannsson displays a rare acumen for making music which functions as an essential element to the film's emotional infrastructure. He provides a soul of sorts, a reliable touchstone that becomes indispensable to a film's disposition, and with Arrival, Jóhannsson's excelled once again. At the beginning of the film when we don't yet know what has arrived, his inscrutable sonic portrayal of the mystery matches Villenueve's slow divulgence of facts beat for beat. And when the revelation finally comes, the moment is seared into our minds by a profusion of alien sounds, showcasing a soundscape that's new and exotic and yet still distinctly Jóhannsson. Next up the composer will lend his scoring capabilities to the much anticipated (again) Villeneuve-helmed Blade Runner 2049, out this coming fall.

Jóhann Jóhannsson shot by Jónatan Grétarsson.jpg