Insomnia (1997)

insomnia poster 1997 movie norwegian
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Different type of police story


Movie Info

Movie Name:   Insomnia

Studio:   Norsk Film

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):   March 14, 1997

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

insomnia jonas engstrom gun stellan skarsgard fog

Bang….well I’m sure it will all work out.

The murder of a young woman named Tanja (Maria Mathiesen) brings Kripos officers Jonas Engström (Stellan Skarsgård) and Erik Vik (Sverre Anker Ousdal) to the northern town of  Tromsø.  When tragedy strikes the investigation, Jonas finds himself plagued with insomnia and watched by a killer (Bjørn Floberg) who seems to know Jonas is hiding.  With one mistake leading to another and working against the local police led by Hilde Hagen (Gisken Armand), Jonas finds himself on a path of destruction in a land where the sun never seems to set.

Directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, Insomnia is a Norwegian psychological investigation mystery thriller.  The film was praised by critics, and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #47).  The film was remade in 2002 starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank.

insomnia 1997 dead vik sverre anker ousdal

You’re the worst partner ever

Insomnia is a short and sweet film.  Just over an hour and a half, the mystery (ok it isn’t much of a mystery) thriller dives deep into the psychological and the idea of mistakes.  Insomnia is a film that should be sought out (especially if you’ve only ever seen the remake).

The story for Insomnia is extremely laid back for a thriller.  Despite a few minor sequences of action, most of the film is based around guilt and encroaching insanity drawn on by insomnia (which circles around by being caused by guilt).  The confrontations and “action” sequences aren’t very action-y and rely more on the psychology of the situation which includes having flawed characters that could be almost anyone once one bad decision is made.  It is a snowball movie where you can’t turn away as the characters make more and more mistakes.

insomnia killer tram scene stellan skarsgard bjorn floberg

Well…this investigation isn’t going as I hoped…

The movie (unlike the remake) has none of the characters really being awful.  You don’t know the extent of Bjørn Floberg’s mental instability so he is the only real wild card in that theory…you have to take his word that everything that happened in the death of Tanja was an accident.  Stellan Skarsgård portrays a genuinely good detective who cannot confess to his error and it ends up paying for it.  You also have characters like Gisken Armand’s officer who is also a good detective, but finds herself behind the eight-ball due to Jonas’ tampering with the case.

The movie also plays not only with the visual of always being light, but the problems of insomnia.  The editing has an ethereal feel to it as Jonas starts to sleepwalk through his life and drifts in and out of essentially reality while he tries to keep it together.

Insomnia is one of those odd movies where the remake stands on some of its own merits.  I really enjoy the original, but the remake does have some good moments as well.  With that being the case, I’d still probably recommend the original over the remake, but I definitely wouldn’t dissuade anyone from seeing it.  Insomnia is a different kind of thriller (especially this version) that turns the investigative procedure story upside down.

Related Links:

Insomnia (2002)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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