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Erlingur Thoroddsen • Director

"Rift talks about a recent breakup, a transition period of emotional instability"

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- Icelandic director Erlingur Thoroddsen talks about his second feature film, Rift, which comes out on 27 October in Iceland

Erlingur Thoroddsen • Director

Rift [+see also:
trailer
interview: Erlingur Thoroddsen
film profile
]
, the second feature film by Icelandic director Erlingur Thoroddsen, was shown in Sweden to close the 40th Göteborg International Film Festival at the beginning of February, as well as at Oslo Pix, a brand-new Norwegian festival, last June. The film, distributed by Sena Film, premieres in Iceland on 27 October. That the date is very close to Halloween is a lucky coincidence, since that celebration of spells is perfectly suited to the film’s atmosphere.

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Cineuropa: The Icelandic title of Rift is Rökkur, which means...
Erlingur Thoroddsen: "Dusk", that uncertain moment that separates day from night. It has this very special light that I wanted for my film, to reinforce the mysterious atmosphere of my story, which takes place during the Christmas season, both the darkest and the most joyous time of the year. In the film, Rift is also the name of the isolated chalet where my characters, Gunnar and Einar, played by Björn Stefánsson and Sigurður Þór Óskarsson, find refuge. Rift is about a recent breakup, a transition period of emotional instability where feelings and emotions are sometimes contradictory. The ambiguity of the plot goes hand in hand with these tensions, this instability. I should specify that other characters appear in the film, albeit briefly.

How would you define Rift?
You could say that it’s a drama with elements of mystery and some borrowing from horror movies, a kind of psychological thriller. It’s also a film about love between two adults, two men, but it’s not a gay film as that would usually be understood, with its traditional elements.

Are there any autobiographical elements?
Yes, since I myself just went through a difficult breakup. This film, for which I wrote the screenplay, was a bit like therapy for me. Certain dialogue exchanges are things I could have said. Moreover, any human being can see themselves in these painful moments. It’s a story that comes from the heart, but there is some restraint, some reserve... I’m not going to make it into a melodrama.

Is the narration done in chronological order?
You might have the impression of a linear story, but you’ll quickly be intrigued, I hope, and start to ask questions… which I’m not going to answer. I just provide a few leads. I would like the viewer to be constantly on the lookout, on alert, and try to put together the puzzle afterwards. One of my film professors taught me the importance of props for developing a story and understanding the characters. In Rift, it’s more the colours and costumes than the objects themselves that may turn out to be revealing clues.

Filming took place in Iceland, I assume.
Yes, in the western part of the country, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which is a strange landscape of geysers and volcanic rocks where hot and cold mix, just like in a relationship that’s breaking down, dissolving. This shoot was done at the end of a long, careful preparation period: 15 days spread out over three weeks with a small team of ten people. It’s amazing to work with meticulous actors with whom you agree on the way to tackle each scene. We worked fast, but without rushing.

You made your first feature, Child Eater [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, with American actors.
This time, my actors are Icelandic, but I worked with the same American director of photography, John Wakayama Carey, and the same Icelandic composer, Einar Sv Tryggvason. This is the fourth time that Einar has worked with me. We’re on the same wavelength, and the music was created over the course of some very productive exchanges.

Is there a place for humour in Rift?
Not really. There are some incongruous elements, bizarre interactions that people might find funny or entertaining, but it’s a grave, serious film... a low-budget film, which was a real challenge for me. I showed some of the sequences to some friends of mine to get reactions about the pace and believability, but I feel that I am definitely the author of this film. At the Oslo Pix Festival a few weeks ago, I was in the room with the audience. I felt them react exactly how I wanted, at the right moments, so I’m happy.

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(Translated from French by Margaret Finnell)

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