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Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018)

by Nathaniel R

Photo by Timothée Lambrecq

Tragic news: The gifted Icelandic film composer Jóhann Jóhannson, who lived in Berlin, died on Friday at only 48 years of age. The cause of his death is not yet known...

I first heard his work in the fine 2006 Icelandic drama Thicker than Water and he became one of my favorite composers. His work was experimental, often mixing electronic elements with more traditional instrumentation, and his scores always sounded best with a films that were concerned with soundscapes (which is probably why he was such a favorite of Denis Villeneuve). He was nominated here first for Prisoners and took the gold medal for Sicario and a bronze for Arrival.

Jóhannsson congratulating Alexandre Desplat (Grand Budapest Hotel) at the Oscars

He was one of Hollywood's most in demand composers. Oscar liked him, too with nominations for both The Theory of Everything and Sicario. In his short career he also won both the Golden Horse Award (for Lou Ye's film Mystery) and the Golden Globe (Theory of Everything). This year he consulted on the amazing soundscape of Darren Aronofsky's mother!. His filmography will sadly not grow but for four film scores completed for films that have yet to be released in the US: the Hungarian picture The Butcher the Whore and the One Armed Man, the Nicolage Cage led indie thriller Mandy (which debuted at Sundance), the British sailing picture The Mercy starring Colin Firth, and Garth Davis's next picture with Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene.

We may have four more Jóhannson scores to be enthralled but this is a terrible loss to cinema (it seemed he was just hitting his stride). Our condolescences go out to his family and other fans. If you loved Jóhannsson's work I recommend this essay on his gift at The Guardian

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Reader Comments (7)

Such a loss. Theory of Everything, Sicario and Arrival are all-time faves for me, and he’s become one of a handful of composers that make me more excited about a movie.

Can’t wait to hear what he’s created for Mandy.

February 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

This is heartbreaking. His score for Sicario is such a brilliant piece. Be at peace.

February 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Tragic news- very sad when someone this young and gifted dies

February 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

That trio The Theory of Everything, Sicario and Arrival - all so different and perfectly in tune with the films while remaining distinct and melodious - made him the most exciting name in film score composition since Alexandre Desplat broke out in the mid-2000s. I also need to explore his earlier experimental works, which are apparently fabulous.

February 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Sad for Johann's demise. I love his electronic music during my DJ days and was still a fan when he scored movies. If anyone wants to dig his pre-film musical forays, and open to fringe music pleasure, try "IBM 1401, A User's Manual" (with machine sounds and glitches) and "Fordlandia".

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

Ugh. So sad. LOVED his Arrival score.

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Very sad. He was a wonderful composer

February 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

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