Insomnia (1997)

03/26/2017 16:55

Film: Insomnia

Year: 1997

Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg

Writer: Nikolaj Frobenius and Erik Skjoldbjærg

Starring: Stellan Skarsgård, Maria Mathiesen and Sverre Anker Ousdal



This film begins with grainy footage of a woman being attacked. She is played by Maria Mathiesen and her head is hit against a wall. There is a nail that her head is hit on and she is killed. The person who attacked her washes her hair and scrubs her nails, removing all of the evidence. We see that whoever did this took her shirt off and puts it behind some things on a shelf.

We then shift to an airplane that is coming to land in a northern Norwegian town. There are two police officers who are partners on this flight. One of them is Swedish, played by Stellan Skarsgård. The other is played by Sverre Anker Ousdal. Ousdal is sleeping on the shoulder of his partner. It is revealed at this time that Ousdal has been to this town before and it is so far north, that during this time of the year it is always sunny, being close to the Arctic Circle.

The two men go to the autopsy of the body for Mathiesen. She was found completely nude and they determine what her death was caused by. Skarsgård starts to look for clues from what she came to the morgue with and it isn’t much. She was found in a dump amongst garbage. Ousdal is taking notes still by those doing the autopsy. We also meet a local cop at this time, played by Gisken Armand. She actually is the head of the investigation for the locals. There is also Kristian Figenschow and Thor Michael Aamodt who will be helping out as well.

The police officers then go to their hotel. It is run by Marianne O. Ulrichsen. She checks them in and gives them their keys. Skarsgård unpacks as his luggage has arrived already. We see that he has a gun and he loads it, putting it into a holster as well.

The investigation then starts. Skarsgård and Ousdal check out her apartment and find that she has expensive dresses in her closet, which she could not afford, this is their first clue. They bring her boyfriend in, who is played by Bjørn Moan. Skarsgård pushes hard and Moan at first gives up nothing. It turns out that she was seeing someone else, who was rich and that is where she got the clothes from.

The next big break they get is they find her book bag outside of a shed. It is brought in and the contents are emptied. Everything is categorized, but Skarsgård learns a cop is going out to where it was found to look for more clues. He demands that he come back and everything that is not needed is put back into the bag. He does a press conference saying that they are looking for the bag.

They go out and canvass the area around the shed. They wait a long time, but finally someone shows up. Skarsgård wants to let him leave so they can quietly follow him, but Ousdal knocks over a thermos, breaking the top and making a lot of noise. The man now knows he is being watched. He flees into the shed. They then surround it and go inside, to find that there is a trap door and tunnel. They chase after him.

The police come out the other end and it is foggy out. Skarsgård gives orders for where everyone to go and they chase. There is a gun shot and Figenschow is hit in the leg. Skarsgård takes his gun out and chases after where the shooter was going. He sees someone in the fog and shoots them. To his horror though, he has shot and killed Ousdal.

The problem we run into is that Skarsgård lies about what happened to the chief of police. He states that the perpetrator they were following was the shooter. Armand is tasked to head that investigation, but Skarsgård goes about altering the evidence in his favor. He is not sleeping at night, since it is always sunny out and that is not helping. He slowly descends into madness. They do catch breaks meeting a friend of Mathiesen’s Maria Bonnevie. We also learn who the rich man she was seeing, he is played by Bjørn Floberg.

Who killed Mathiesen? Will Skarsgård be charged with the death of Ousdal? Or will he convince Armand it was someone else? Will he be able to get some sleep before he loses his mind?

I have to say that the first time I watched this was because I saw the American remake. This film has a great concept to me. I don’t know if you have ever experienced insomnia, but it is a scary thing because it makes you think weird things and that you will never sleep again. I could not imagine going days without sleeping and trying to do a stressful job like being a detective. I love that this film takes place where the sun is out all day and night, because personally I don’t know if I could sleep there or not. I think the acting in this film is good, as I’m a huge fan of Skarsgård. This film also is great in that we have two men who have committed heinous crimes and are using that knowledge to prevent the other from turning them in. It makes it even better that Skarsgård is a cop and he is being corrupt to keep his freedom as he descends into madness.

The only major issue I had with this film was that it is slightly boring at times. The film isn’t long, but there are some scenes that I feel could have been cut or altered to make it more exciting while building the story. This is something that I’m not against the film, but this all could have been avoided. Skarsgård probably would not have been held accountable for killing his partner if he tells the truth, but as a cop he doesn’t want his reputation tarnished. I also think there might have been an issue with him carrying an illegal weapon. I’m not from Norway so I don’t know the rule here unfortunately. A lot of this goes back to that he isn’t sleeping, not thinking straight and struggling with keeping his sanity.

I am adding this film to the horror film research, because of Skarsgård’s character and sinking into madness. This madness is brought on by the fact that he cannot sleep, because it is too bright. This is something that I personally have experienced when I’ve had insomnia and it is a terrifying thing to deal with.

I would recommend viewing this film, especially if you like the remake. This is the original film that takes place in northern Norway. The acting in this film is really good and the concept is great. I love the idea of someone not from the area not being able to handle the constant sunlight and being unable to sleep. By having insomnia, he descends into madness that starts to affect his job and life. I also love the duality of two killers, from both sides and how they need each other to keep their freedom. I will warn you that this version is subtitled, or you will need to view it dubbed over. I definitely think this film is well worth a viewing though.


My Rating: 7 out of 10