I was just scrolling through my feed when a post took me by surprise. Jóhann Jóhannsson, one of my favorite film composers, had passed away. This was a shock, he was only 48, and it felt like we had only just begun to witness what he had to offer cinema.
His work with filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is what made me fall in love with Jóhannsson, as I’m sure it did many others. His score for Prisoners captures the moody, foreboding tone of the film. His work on Sicario signals a coming eroding darkness with its war drums and plummeting bass notes. His work on Arrival can best be summed up as what an alien language might sound like, what noises they might use to try to communicate with us. His work outside of Villeneuve was just as tremendous. He pondered the meaning of the universe in his The Theory of Everything score, and most recently created a nightmarish haze of Vangelis and Doom Metal for Mandy. One day, I hope we hear the unused work he did on Blade Runner 2049.
His scores are the kind you want to dream about. He always seemed to understand the mood and aesthetic of each film, and knew how to tell you the emotions without forcing them on you. More than that though, his scores seemed to be just as personal as his solo classical output. They could be listened to and understood out of context of the film, you could feel he had something to say with each score.
I always looked forward to hearing a Jóhann Jóhannsson score, as you could be sure it would be one to remember and ponder upon. I will miss the challenge his work always offered up, I will miss his immeasurable contribution to cinema. Jóhannsson had so much work left in him, but we should be grateful we got to hear any of it at all.