This 1997 film from Norway, made by director Erik Skjoldbjærg, delivers the goods with unsettling effectiveness. It’s an intense, intelligent, and taut Scandinavian thriller. If possible, what the movie implies is creepier than the film’s reality.
Opening with a churning, chilling murder of a young woman, Insomnia invites the viewer–as well as its protagonist, celebrated Oslo homicide cop Jonas Engström (Stellan Skarsgård)–into the mind and thoughts of a killer by making Engström fatally flawed himself. While in pursuit of the murderer, Engström makes a mistake; he accidentally shoots his partner and friend and covers up his deed in a panic. But he overlooks a minor and very important detail: the real killer has seen him commit the crime.
What ensues is a layered, complex, and unnerving descent into chaos, brought on by the inability to sleep in this land of the midnight sun. Engström suffers from insomnia, which warps his logic and resolve, and before long he’s totally unraveled and unsure of his every move. But not before a twisty transference and counter-transference occurs between cop and killer. The two play a game of high-stakes one-up-manship that surprises in the end. Insomnia is fresh and psychologically bent, full of Scandinavian despair and dark humor, and it boasts a film noir pulse beneath its blinding light.
This movie has been remade with a stellar cast of international actors. Even so, the original Norwegian version is still extremely worthwhile. It is excellently filmed and feels extremely authentic – this really is Scandinavia. And Stellan Skarsgard does a marvellous job as the insomniac detective Engström as well.
- Actors: Stellan Skarsgård, Maria Mathiesen, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Gisken Armand, Kristian Figenschow
- Directors: Erik Skjoldbjærg
- Writers: Erik Skjoldbjærg, Nikolaj Frobenius
- Producers: Petter J. Borgli, Tom Remlov, Tomas Backström
- Format: PAL
- Language: Norwegian/Swedish
- Subtitles: English
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1