the fresh films reviews

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Insomnia (1997)

Erik Skjoldbjærg
Thriller, kriminal
97 minutter
Tomas Backström
Petter J. Borgli
Tom Remlov
Nikolaj Frobenius
Erik Skjoldbjærg

Cast includes:

Jonas Engström Stellan Skarsgård ½
Erik Vik Sverre Anker Ousdal
Jon Holt Bjørn Floberg
Hilde Hagen Gisken Armand
Ane Maria Bonnevie ½
Politisjefen Frode Rasmussen ½



It seems Insomnia had the same surprise effect on international audiences at the time of release as the lack of darkness has on detective Jonas Engström when he comes to assist in the investigation of the murder of 17-year-old Tanja Lorentzen in a small Northern Norwegian town. That is to say, people are naturally fascinated by natural elements such as midnight sun and its effect on people who are used to it and those who are not, and this makes the concept of Insomnia immediately attractive. What is fundamentally interesting here is how Engström's transition and involuntary self-examination leads us to ponder concepts of guilt and ethics, and how the film suggests that the distance from those who represent what is right to those who represent what is wrong not need be very substantial.

Unfortunately, this psychological study isn't enough to make an unaccomplished and averagely written crime story effective. An only mildly enthusiastic Stellan Skarsgård is brought in to headline this international release as first-time director Erik Skjoldbjærg looks to convey the claustrophobic atmosphere of the north, but this is nowhere near Orions belte, and the Skarsgård character is overanalyzed from the get go, making the heavy emphasis on his insomnia ultimately counterproductive; we get the point already.

The conventional story and the second-fiddling nature of the supporting characters constrain what could have been an intense and interesting study. The director is largely to blame for this – his unsuspenseful narration and feeble command of his performers make the drama unauthentic and the crime denouement forced. The sober ending and satisfactory conclusion is merely a consolation in a film where even the trusty Bjørn Floberg fails to impress.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 6.8.2008 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright © 4.2.1998 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang