Director: Edward S. Barkin
Screenwriters: Edward S. Barkin

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


Based on his play of the same name, Rift is Edward Barkin's directorial debut. Set and shot in New York City, the film explores the history and psychological underpinnings of a twenty-something love triangle. Notably true to his subject, Barkin makes his characters accessible. Yet his use of nightmares, flashbacks and hallucinations gives the film an otherworldly, mysterious tone.

Tom, portrayed with sensitivity and intensity by William Sage (most recently seen in Hal Hartley's Simple Men), is an introverted songwriter victimized by his conscience. He suffers from delusions, most likely brought on by his desperate love for Lisa, the wife of his best friend, Bill. As his friends' marriage begins to crumble, Tom alternately blames himself and becomes excited about the potential of anew relationship with Lisa. Overcome by guilt, he turns to Dr. Messers, a young psychiatrist. Far from helping him, the therapy sessions exacerbate his difficulties. Plagued by a recurring nightmare, in which he is murdered by Bill, Tom retreats into his mind The problem is that his thoughts and perceptions are as dangerous as the reality he is trying to avoid.

At first glance straightforward, the film begins to twist realities before one evening realizes it. Barkin employs a series of meanings, all initiated by Tom's thought processes. He frames stories within stories and deftly moves in and out of the various layers. He resists the temptation to be clear-cut, and often leaves boundaries gray.

Reminiscent of character studies like The Graduate, Rift explores a man who understands neither himself, nor the complex and contradictory psychological and emotional forces affecting him. Accentuated by the elusive cinematography of Lee Daniel (Slacker), Rift is a powerful first feature, each moment absorbing and provocative.

Saturday Jan 23 7:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Monday Jan 25 4:15 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Friday Jan 29 Noon
Prospector Square Theatre

Saturday Jan 30 4:30 pm
Holiday Village Cinema III


— Catherine Schulman

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]