Norwegian, 97 min., 1997

director.gif (905 bytes)Erik Skjoldbjærg


Stellan Skarsgård - Jonas Engström
Maria Mathiesen - Tanja Lorentzen
Sverre Anker Ousdal - Erik Vik
Gisken Armand - Hilde Hagen
Kristian Figenschow - Arne Zakariassen
Thor Michael Aamodt - Tom Engen
Frode Rasmussen - Chief of Police
Bjørn Moan  - Eilert
Maria Bonnevie - Ane
Marianne O. Ulrichsen - Frøya
Bjørn Floberg - Jon Holt


March 14, 1997 in Norway

May 29, 1998 in USA

Screened at the 1997 Toronto Film Festival

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Recently disgraced Swedish cop Jonas Engström and his partner Erik Vik are transferred to northern Norway, the land of the midnight sun, to help the local police investigate the brutal murder of a beautiful young girl. Following the accidental shooting of his partner, Engström attempts to cover up the incident by blaming the murder suspect for the killing and over the following days manipulates the evidence.

With his senses disturbed by sleeplessness caused by both guilt and the constant daylight, Engström struggles to maintain his cool while taking part in a dangerous and complex battle of wits with the murderer.


button_box.gif (205 bytes)PRODUCTION NOTES:

Insomnia is director Erik Skjoldbjærg 's feature film debut - "Unlike many directors, I do not claim that I know my characters in every way. I strive hard to understand them, but some of their actions still defy a clear explanation. Actually, I am very thankful for that... We were struck by the idea of making a reversed film noir with light, not darkness, as the dramatic force. And we began guiding our main character through sleepless nights until he gradually lost touch with himself and his ideals."

Insomnia was filmed in the director’s home town of Tromsø. "So many crews had used the landscape in an epic manner, but I had never experienced that when growing up, so I wanted to give the film a sparse, unspectacular look. We tried not to build classical compositions. Instead we wanted the eye to wander, to create a certain discomfort, almost exasperation at the impenetrability of the enigma."

Erik was introduced to Skarsgård through Hans Petter Moland, who had made Zero Kelvin. “The moment he walked through the door in Stockholm, I knew I had found the right actor." The film was based on a manuscript by Nicolay Frobenius.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)PRAISE FOR STELLAN'S PERFORMANCE:

"This is a masterful performance by Skarsgård (Breaking the Waves, Good Will Hunting), one that ably demonstrates his skills as one of the world's finest character actors. Under the pitiless glare of around-the-clock sunlight, without the escape of sleep, Jonas is forced to see himself clearly for the first time, and Skarsgård shows us in minute detail how shattering this experience is for his character."   ...Weekly Wire

"Skarsgård is terrific, artfully marrying intensity and reserve in portraying Jonas' slide into ignominy and compromise."   ...Newsday

"Marking the astonishing directorial debut of Erik Skjoldbjærg (Prozac Nation), Insomnia is a brilliantly crafted and compelling Hitchcockian thriller featuring a remarkably affecting central performance by acclaimed Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård."

"Skjoldbjærg makes excellent use of the austere landscapes and oppressive grey light and also elicits an exceptional performance from Skarsgård."     ...Sight and Sound

"Skarsgård impressed in both Good Will Hunting and Breaking the Waves. Here he is amazing, perfectly showing the slow disintegration of the character. He can’t sleep, he is guilty over his partner’s death, he is paranoid and he is being taunted by the girl’s killer. Jonas is one messed up individual and Skarsgård brings him magnificently to life."  ...Stato's Movie Reviews

"Skjoldbjærg builds the tension unerringly, with strong, deliberate pacing and a wonderfully unsettling performance by Skarsgard."  ...Boston Globe

"Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, whose fine work in Breaking the Waves was benignly overlooked in the rush to praise his amazing co-star Emily Watson, emerges in this nightless noir as a Scandinavian Humphrey Bogart...  Some of the best shots are just close-ups of Skarsgård's large, pale, extremely intelligent face, shots that register his emotions, especially the conflicting nobility and brutality of the flawed but honorable man he's playing."  ...Boston Herald

"Skarsgård's performance as a man pushed to the breaking point gives the film its share of Hitchcockian undercurrents. And Skjoldbjærg's understated, elliptical direction keeps the material dangerous and volatile, with frequent small touches of the unexpected as Engstrom shows increasing signs of strain."  ...LA Daily News

"Skarsgård is perfectly cast; with his huge frame, sagging slightly with worldweariness, his lank blonde hair, and his tortured, soulful eyes, searching reluctantly for the bad news of the world, he’s a sort of Gary Cooper as Viking or a Lappland Liam Neeson... Writer Nikolaj Frobenius subtly and compellingly delineates the man’s vertiginous descent; Skarsgård brings to it unsettling humanity; and Skjoldbjærg’s direction ominously bleeds together the unnerving, constant sunlight and the detective’s eroding integrity.  ...Memphis Flyer

"Personified so fittingly by lead actor Stellan Skarsgård Swedish police investigator, Jonas Engstrom is the pivoting character from whom the psychological effects of killing emanate unto a world of Insomnia."     ...Cinephiles

"Covering a trail of deceit that leads to his compromised connection with the killer, this blurs the line between right and wrong and cleverly aligns the concept of guilt with sleeplessness and impaired judgement, physically embodied in the complicated central performance of Stellan Skarsgård."    ...Aro Video (NZ)

"The formidable Skarsgård is magnetic. His choir boy face has a great malleability: his features darken as his morality becomes more and more ambiguous. His clenched, implosive performance is deceptively simple; you almost have to view the film twice to fully appreciate the numerous layers he brings to the character."    ...Pamela's Film & Entertainment Site

"As usual, Skarsgård delivers an excellent performance."   ...Mondo Digital

"Stellan Skarsgård (Breaking the Waves, Good Will Hunting) turns in his most memorable performance to date as Jonas Engström. He transforms his character from an inspector with quiet confidence, to a collaborator who stumbles around in an insomnia-induced haze."

"Stellan Skarsgård is strikingly effective as Engström. At the beginning of the film, he is calm, cool, and a little arrogant - the perfect picture of a cop who believes in his infallibility. By the end, he is a mess, both physically and psychologically. The role is challenging because it demands so many shifts in personality (some gradual, some sudden), but Skarsgard pulls it off with seeming ease.   ... James Berardinelli

"The film is a character study of Jonas Engström (played by Stellan Skarsgård, the hulking, talented actor, a kind of Scandinavian Liam Neeson."   ...Guide to Cinema

"Stellan Skarsgård turns in his most memorable performance to date as Jonas Engström. He transforms his character from an inspector with quiet confidence, to a collaborator who stumbles around in an insomnia-induced haze."    ...Select Flicks

"Skarsgård continues to mine an oddly appealing weariness that imbues even his most flawed characters with a frayed dignity."   ...Nitrate Online

"Skarsgård is sensational. The more Jonas is plagued by his mistake and confounded by the jumbled facts surrounding the girl's murder, the cooler and more ruthless he becomes." ...San Francisco Chronicle

"By now moviegoers know well the impact and range of Skarsgård...  He persuades us to empathize with Engström while never flinching from the ruthlessness the man displays in protecting himself."  ...LA Times

"Engström is a deliciously flawed character. Brilliantly played by Skarsgård, he is a man who by nature and profession hunts for the truth. But his dark suits and darker behavior belie a man who is intent on keeping himself secret."  ...Dual Lens

"What really makes Insomnia work is Skarsgård's performance. Like the antiheroes so popular in American films of the 1960s and 1970s, Engström balances precariously on that line between rogue charm and perfectly despicable behavior. Skarsgård perfectly embodies that moral ambiguity, while suggesting a profound disturbance lying just beneath a placid surface."

"As Jonas, Skarsgård is brilliant. Repressed and unctuous, yet oddly handsome, he gives a performance so compelling that one could easily picture him as Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment."   ...Williamette Week

"Skarsgård plays the film in true Scandinavian fashion by maintaining exactly one stoic facial expression the whole way through. But in that expression he tells volumes: his growing tension and the fear of getting caught mix with self-disgust, and most of all, the exhaustion as he finds himself unable to sleep in a place where the sun doesn't set all summer."  ...Pitchfork Media

"Engström, played by the magnificent Stellan Skarsgård, is a deeply ambiguous figure."  ...Film Freak Central

"The imposing yet bluntly charismatic Stellan Skarsgård (Breaking the Waves) came across as a far more unsettling protagonist than the cuddly, familiar Pacino."    ...Deep Focus

"Skarsgård's chilling performance exploits his character's flaws and the mysterious Norwegian atmosphere gives this film an appealing film noir flavor."  ...Ozus World Movie Reviews

"Skarsgård plays Engström convincingly. When he does stupid things, we can believe that Engström really would make such awful decisions. Skarsgård's bleak demeanour gives us a meaningful glimpse into Engström's soul."  ...Apollo Movie Guide

"The picture enjoyed a small but respectable run in the United States thanks to the shambling presence of Stellan Skarsgård in the lead and to the clever use of locations."  ...The Nation

"Skarsgård’s lead performance towers over Pacino’s, so it’s not hard to recommend the original over the remake, especially since the technical aspects of the newer version aren’t in any way outstanding."  ...Movie Matyr

"Skarsgård is a terrific actor, and watching him grow more and more desperate is both unsettling and fascinating."   ...DVD Movie Central

"Stellan Skarsgård is exceptional as the tired detective... First time director Erik Skjoldbjærg lets Skarsgård play Engstråm far more ambiguously than a Hollywood director would have - is Engstom evil? Is he merely stressed out and unlucky, a victim of circumstance? The audience is left to make their own conclusions and yet Skarsgård still manages to create a character as real and multidimensional as any movie cop we've ever seen."  ...DVD-a-day

"Sizzling Swede Stellan Skarsgård gives a riveting performance as Jonas Engström. Featuring a clever, inventive script, Insomnia is full of off-beat humour and nail-biting suspense, and features a truly mesmerizing performance by Skarsgård."    ...Cinematheque

"Lead actor Stellan Skarsgård does a superb job of subtly conveying the many layers of guilt, fear, desire for self-preservation, and growing confusion that Engström feels as he finds himself living a life that increasingly parallels that of the killer."  ...Digs Magazine

"In Skarsgård's hands, Engström is a fascinating character. Perpetually sour and brooding, Engström doesn't want or need the respect and admiration of his peers. He is supremely confident in his abilities (for now), and always in complete control. Skarsgård handles this part of the role extremely well, but he also gets the man's flaws just right



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