10 Best Movies Scored By Johan Johannsson
Film composer Johan Johannsson created a number of powerful scores before his untimely passing. He started his career in the industry composing films from his native Iceland but eventually brought his talent to the States as well as China. He frequently collaborated with French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve but also worked with the divisive Darren Aronofsky as well as controversial Chinese director Lou Ye. Indeed, though he passed away quite prematurely, he leaves behind an impressive list of films for which he has provided the score. Here are ten of the best films he worked on.
Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is about as heavy-metal as film gets. Nicolas Cage’s protagonist goes on a psychedelic revenge spree when his idyllic 1980s Pacific Northwest life is turned upside down by a cult leader. It is truly one of those films that have to be experienced for one to understand. Johannsson truly gives the score his all.
Johannsson, director Denis Villeneuve, and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan was truly a match made in heaven and Sicario is proof positive of that. The film is quite possibly Villeneuve’s best to date. It is beautifully shot. It is visceral and tragic. Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin all give great performances in the film about the horrors of collateral damage in the drug war along the Mexican-American border.
If Darren Aronofsky is one thing, it is subtle. mother! offers about as heavy-handed a metaphor as they come, but it comes together to create a bizarre, engrossing film that only Aronofsky himself could construct. It may not have been the best film of the year, but it is certainly one of the most fascinating to bear witness to, in part because of Johannsson’s unique score.
Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to Sicario tries to the best of its abilities to dramatize human contact with extraterrestrials as it might truly happen in a real-world context. The film is grounded by the performances of Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, but Johannsson deserves much of the attention for his chilling contribution.
Chinese director Lou Ye’s first collaboration with Johannsson was his film Mystery. In the film, a woman’s life is thrown into disarray when she discovers that her husband has been unfaithful. Mystery was Ye’s first release in his native China since Purple Butterfly in 2003. He had been banned from making films there for five years. The film was lauded upon release at Cannes Film Festival in 2012.
Blind Massage (2014)
Lou Ye’s follow-up film was also scored by Johannsson. The film, Blind Massage, features an ensemble cast and dramatizes the lives of massage parlor employees. The common ground they all share, beyond working side by side in the same industry, is that they lack the ability to see, as the title suggests.
Denis Villeneuve truly broke onto the film scene in a big way with Prisoners, which would pave the way for his subsequent films Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. The film features strong performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano in a brutal story of crime and vigilante justice in a cold winter landscape.
So Yong Kim’s Lovesong details a powerfully intimate relationship between two women, Sarah (Riley Keough) and Mindy (Jena Malone). The line between best friends and lovers becomes blurred as the two embark on a spontaneous trip together to escape the monotony of their respective lives. It is a film which tugs at the heartstrings, fostered by Johannsson’s score.
The Mercy (2017)
Director James Marsh’s follow-up to The Theory of Everything is another biographical picture. The Mercy is adapted from the life of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who sought to sail around the world without stopping in a yacht by himself and died as a result. Colin Firth plays Donald and Rachel Weisz his wife Clare. It is a moving film if not particularly remarkable.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
The Theory of Everything is a mostly by-the-book biographical picture. The performances are solid but it does not offer much more than a dramatization of real events. It did, however, give breakout roles to both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane. It also features some of the most uplifting compositions of Johannsson’s career.
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