A few years ago, I watched the 2002 American movie Insomnia, starring Al Pacino, and enjoyed it. However, a number of well-informed people told me that this version was not as good as the film of which it was a re-make. The original Insomnia was first screened in 1997 and is a Norwegian film by Erik Skoldbjaerg. I’ve now managed to catch up with it.
Over the credits, we see footage of a teenage girl, falling prey to an assailant. After that prelude, the investigation into her death begins. A top detective, played by Stellan Skarsgaard, arrives with his partner in a quiet spot inside the Arctic Circle to solve the mystery. He is Swedish, and therefore doubly an outsider in the small community.
The trouble is that the detective finds it impossible to get a decent night’s sleep in a place where the sun never seems to go down. As his view of the world becomes blurred by insomnia, so his behaviour becomes morally compromised, to such an extent that the dividing line between the detective and the man he is hunting is far from clear.
I thought this film was pretty well done, even though the mystery element was nothing truly special, and I can see why it has attracted an enthusiastic following, as well as the tribute of a glossy re-make with one of the world’s top film stars. I liked Pacino’s performance a lot, but the little known Skarsgaard – in a very different way – also makes a fine impression as the detective tormented by lack of sleep.