Eternal Themes: History’s End Through the Eyes and Ears of Jóhann Jóhannsson
On humanity's longue durée and the late socialist composer.
One of the last soundtracks that Jóhann Jóhannsson completed before his untimely death in February of 2018 was for Panos Cosmatos’ stunning psychedelic horror film Mandy. It is strangely fitting. Most of those familiar with the composer’s work agree that loss is a major theme running throughout it. And Mandy is certainly a film about loss, specifically the kind that drives Nicolas Cage’s lumberjack Red toward psychotic violence, the kind of loss that takes the boundaries of sanity with it. Without the person who, we are led to believe, rescued Red from his own brutal past and addictions, nothing tethers him. On his way through slaughtering the cult members responsible for Mandy’s (Andrea Riseborough) death, he collapses back into addiction and hallucination.
The music for Mandy captures all of this. Non-diegetic music is by its definition music that plays over the film’s events. Its characters, ostensibly, cannot hear it. But in the case of Mandy, Jóhannsson has crafted such an other-w…