Film review

film poster for Insomnia with two men and a mountain behind them
Films of Norway

People are traveling from all over the world to the north of Norway (in the summertime) to experience “the midnight sun.” It sounds simple enough: See the sun at midnight. 

Exciting yes, but also a part of the story is that during this time of the year, it does not get dark! There is daylight 24 hours around the clock, every day. Sounds nice, uplifting, energizing … and it could be, but my sister went there once, and she called me up while she was there and said, “Geir, it is beautiful, but I can’t sleep—it never gets dark, and I am exhausted from lack of sleep.”

This is the backdrop of the movie that I am going to talk about in this review. Insomnia is set in the north of Norway and has a fine little twist about a detective who is not used to 24-hour daylight and lack of sleep. Challenging for anyone, even if you are on holiday, but one can imagine what it would be for a detective trying to solve a murder case, as is the case in this story.

It is, however, interesting to see the contrast between the struggling “detective” and Stellan Skarsgård, the actor who plays the detective. He is at the top of his game in every scene and in full control. I have seen Skarsgård in many movies, and I cannot remember one where he was not good. What an actor. He delivers in any movie and has that dramatic and mysterious aura that I guess is part of why he is so popular.  

There is only one negative thing I can come up with when I think of Stellan Skarsgård. He is not Norwegian. As we know, he is from Sweden, but he has played in so many Norwegian movies that I think we can claim a little ownership of the man … just a little, please.  

Anyway, back to the movie. Insomnia became a huge success in Norway and also traveled successfully worldwide. The Americans liked it so much that they bought the remake rights and hired Al Pacino to play the detective role in Insomnia. I have not seen that version yet, but it’s on my “to watch” list, and my expectations are high.  

Insomnia is often mentioned as one of the first Norwegian Nordic Noir genre movies, so in that sense, it’s one of the trendsetters. But if you decide to watch this movie, you will be disappointed if you expect wild car chases and massive explosions. But you’ll be quite satisfied if you are interested in good acting, a good story, lighting, and editing, all at a level you seldom get to see. 

There is also top-notch directing by Erik Skjoldbjærg and creative photography by Erling Thurmann–Andersen. Applause also goes to the young Håkon Øverås for outstanding editing.

Happy streaming!

Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg
Script: Nikolaj Frobenius and Erik Skjoldbjærg
Photography: Erling Thurmann-Andersen
Producer: Norsk Film AS
Year: 1997
Runtime: 96 min
Editing: Håkon Øverås
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Maria Mathiesen, Gisken Armand

See Insomina at

This article originally appeared in the June 4, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Geir Mæland

Geir Mæland is the founder and manager of Films of Norway, a Norwegian film-streaming service based in Stavanger, Norway.