Insomnia

 

Insomnia

The Swedish crime film Insomnia is directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg and photographed by Erling Thurmann-Andersen. The captivating Stellan Skarsgård plays a Swedish cop, Engström, who is exiled to the Norwegian police department after having an affair with a witness. 

Despite arriving at a foreign environment with the record of a ridiculous blemish, Engström operates with shrewd hubris and is well respected amongst his peers. He is accompanied by his witty partner Erik Vik (Sverre Anker Ousdal), who has the amusing ability to effortlessly crack a smile out of the callous Engström. 

The murder of a beautiful Norwegian student brings Engström and Vik to a Norwegian island where summer nights ceases to exist. Engström would find himself struggling with the Norwegian day light, which gradually impacts the film allegorically. 

Vik's unfortunate demise marks the turning point in Insomnia; as the man in charge of the case, Engström feels particularly responsible for Vik’s catastrophe. Overtime, Engström’s sleep is severely affected as insomnia reigns over his conscience. 

A particular sequence in Insomnia expounds Engström’s psychological condition artfully. Roger Ebert’s review of the film described the relationship between Engström’s guilt and the town’s daylight as “The midnight sun casts an unremitting bright light, like the eye of God that will not blink.”

In this sequence, the insomniac Engström struggles in bed. His psychological condition leads to the hallucination of Vik, who tells a mischievous joke by Engström’s couch. 

Engström hears the voice of his deceased partner but he doesn’t look to Vik’s direction. Engström knows that he is trapped in purgatory with the peering light relentlessly piercing through his soul in the shape of an eye.

“What is it like during the Winter?” Engström asks in the beginning of Insomnia. “The complete opposite. Darkness.” Perhaps Vik's reply acted as a foreshadow to the disparity of Engström’s impending human condition.

Insomnia was later remade into an American film with the same title, starring Al Pacino and directed by Christopher Nolan.

 

 
 
 

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud

 

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud

 

In Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, the then 26 year old debutant introduced elements and themes that would recur in the primary films of the French New Wave filmmakers. Prior to working with Malle, Cinematographer Henri Decaë had just started his career photographing for Jean-Pierre Melville but his later works with Malle, Melville, Claude Chabrol and François Truffaut would cement an illustrious legacy in world cinema.

In Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, Malle and Decaë presented a direct act of murder with the flamboyance of true cinematic virtuosos.

In this sequence, Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) is about to murder his boss, Simon Carala (Jean Wall). Tavernier pleads for his secretary to stay behind with plans to use her as an alibi. Tavernier’s secretary indulges herself with the sharpening of pencils while Tavernier takes a secret route to meet his target.

1.) Simon Carala is unintimidated by Tavernier’s threat but is visibly shaken when he realizes that Tavernier is holding onto a familiar weapon that Tavernier couldn’t possibly have access to.

2.) Carala questions Tavernier but Tavernier is determined.

3.) Tavernier’s secretary is casually sharpening pencils while the malicious act is taking place.

4.) The camera cuts to a tighter shot with the loud sound of sharpening pencils masking away the gunshot. Then, a blip to the pencil sharpener happens, the secretary stops sharpening. She pulls out the pencil with the tip of its lead broken, artfully signifying the death of Simon Carala.

5.) Tavernier plants the gun onto Carala’s hand to complete the staging of a suicide.

 

Doubt

 

DOUBT

Doubt is based on an acclaimed stage play of the same title, with both artistic mediums written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. The film stars Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Doubt is photographed beautifully by Roger Deakins and an exemplary sequence stands out in a set up that arouses  suspicion.

1.        Sister Aloysius (Streep) lets her doubt  about Father Flynn (Hoffman) be known to her sisters at the dinner table. From her seat, she accommodated her eye line into the camera.

2.        In the subsequent scene that depicts the following day, the shot displays direct eye contact from Father Flynn to Sister Aloysius but their timelines are incongruent. Rather than Sister Aloysius, Father Flynn was in fact, looking up to the glow of the morning light.

3.        The shots line up in a stunning display when Father Flynn's point of view happens to be the cathedral window in the form of God’s eye.

The ending of Doubt leaves the audience with an ambiguity over the suspicions and actions of an individual. However, if Sister Aloysius’ gaze truly represented the eye of god, then the key to answering the ending of the film lies in this sequence. After all, John Patrick Shanley is the creator and god of Doubt’s narrative.