If you’re looking to build up atmosphere, suspense, a sense of terror and a general creepiness, then setting and backdrop is key. When choosing the location for a thriller, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somewhere more appropriate for spine-tingling thrills than the Nordic countries. Their sinister, eerie and sparse landscapes have added an essential touch of spice to many Scandinavian crime dramas. In his film Rift, Erlingur Thoroddsen uses rural Iceland to portray a sense of isolation, loneliness and desolation.
When Gunnar (Björn Stefánsson) receives a strange late-night call from his ex-boyfriend Einar (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson), he’s concerned about his mental wellbeing. Gunnar drops everything and rushes off to see his former partner and make sure he’s ok. Einar is holed up in his late parents’ house in a remote part of Iceland. Their reunion stirs up a wave of memories, with old recriminations coming to the fore as they analyse the breakdown of their relationship. However, the sparse landscape plays tricks with their minds and someone seems to be stalking the house.
The key to the success of Rift is the chilling Icelandic landscape and the chemistry between the two leads. Thoroddsen uses this relationship to draw the viewer in, whilst building atmosphere and tension through clever camerawork and milking the natural environment to full-effect. At its core, Rift is a relationship drama. However, there are so many elements at play which combine to produce a mysterious, eerie and suspenseful film.