Student Review: Rokkur/Rift


Up and coming Icelandic film director Erlingur Thoroddsen breaks the rules of the traditional horror genre by putting a unique and bleak twist on his film: RIFT, a tale of complex love and bloody consequences set in the frozen wasteland of a far off village.

The film begins with lots of beautiful landscaping shots, filled with mountains and snow, depicting the vacuous landscape of the small country. In the middle of the night, Gunnar gets a panicked call from his ex-lover Einar who has retreated to a family cabin (Rökkur) in the middle of the wilderness and speaks of someone lurking around in the dark. Without hesitation, Gunnar heads out of Reykjavik to the cabin, and thus begins a journey of confusion, lost love and a disturbing past.

The two actors (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson and Björn Stefánsson) have such a strong dynamic and almost unspeakable chemistry on screen, which is matched with an enigmatic soundtrack and breath-taking cinematography. The characters’ humanity is explored in depth, from old photographs to homemade films – and you warm to them despite the chilly, sinister atmosphere. Einar in particular is incredibly likeable, with a childish wit and essence of a damaged soul. His need to escape to the country for some time alone is also very relatable. However, Gunnar is more composed and sinister, which makes you question his motives. Why has he gone to check up on an old flame, despite having moved on with someone new? There is clearly a lot of unspoken words between them, which is teased out during the course of the film.  The psychological twists and turns of RIFT make the characters start to question their reality, as does the audience.

A masterpiece of elegant storytelling and a fresh, original take on horror.

There is a certain correlation between horror and romance in the film: one is not present without the other. As a viewer, you let your guard down as they bare their souls and talk through their issues, and all of a sudden the blackness of the night is present again whilst you are at your most vulnerable. It takes you on your own emotional journey in 126 minutes with a healthy dose of scream-worthy moments. From Einar’s clear alcohol issues, to the ominous bumps in the night and disappearing figures, Thoroddsen executes an intense horror thriller without falling into any of the cliché cracks.

Shot on a low budget and in only two weeks, it clearly shows the talent of the director and the competency and dedication of a small team with a clear goal. Building on influences of DON’T LOOK NOW and THE SHINING, RIFT is a masterpiece of elegant storytelling and a fresh, original take on horror. It comes across exceptionally well to a foreign audience, and its unsettling nature is hauntingly beautiful, much like the country itself.

The film is set to debut in Iceland next week, having already won the LA Outfest Artistic Vision Award. 

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