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.


Mono Digest