(Original 1997 version)

foreign films

Made in: Norway
Language: Norwegian, Swedish
Director: Erik Skoldbjærg
Starring: Stellan Skarsgård, Bjørn Floberg, Gisken Armand, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Marianne O. Ulrichsen, Maria Mathiesen
Year: 1997

Synopsis: Swedish police investigator Jonas Engström (Stellan Skarsgard) and his aging partner Erik Vik (Sverre Anker Ousdal) are summoned to a small, northern Norwegian town to help investigate the murder of a teenage girl named Tanja (Maria Mathiesen).

While setting a trap for the suspected killer, a brief chase and shootout ensue. In the heavy fog, Engström accidentally shoots and kills Erik. Oops.

While trying to cover up his mistake by false statements and tampering with evidence, Engström learns that the suspect witnessed everything. As a sympathetic fellow detective (Gisken Armand) starts poking holes in his account of what happened, Engström continues searching for the truth behind Tanja's death.

Amidst his quest, there are plenty of sleepless nights as the Norwegian summer yields 24 hours of daylight...

Remarks: The overall premise is pretty compelling, but the strongest part of Insomnia is the powerful cinematography. This is a beautifully shot film. There isn't a whole lot of dialogue in this movie, and much of the character development is meant to be interpreted by the viewer. In other words, this is a film that you'll have to watch closely.

Although it's just over ninety minutes, Insomnia is very slow-paced. It's exceptionally well-made in terms of camera work and editing, and succeeds in making an emotional impact.

However, I wouldn't recommend this one for a wide audience. It contains a lot of the abstract, "artsy stuff" that you may associate with foreign films, and it'll mean more to you if you've either studied film theory or have an affinity (or perhaps tolerance) for movies that aren't meant to be taken completely at face value.

If you're already a big fan of foreign films and art-house cinema, you'll appreciate this one. But those just looking for fun and entertainment will probably get really bored and leave.

This film was remade in the US with Al Pacino.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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