Betsy Speicher

Insomnia (2002)

Rate this movie   1 vote

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  2. 2. Sense of Life or Personal Value

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3 posts in this topic

This is really a terrific film, as I'm sure others can testify. But there are a couple of remarkable things about it besides having a tangled but compelling plot and fascinating (if deeply troubled) characters.

1. It's a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, but it's better than the original, because it has a more convincing backstory about what brought Will Dormer to Alaska (Jonas Engstrom to northern Norway in the the Norwegian version) in the first place – a backstory that ties dramatically in with the frontstory

2. Robin Williams' riveting performance as Walter Finch. Williams was known almost entirely as a comic actor at the time, and yet I knew he had it him to play dramatic roles. That was because in a 1996 adaptation of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, he had played the mad Professor who goes around with a bomb strapped to his chest. Williams had the character, the very prototype of the modern terrorist, dead-on. Yet for some reason, he had himself credited as "Jeorge Spilvyn." That's a variation of "George Spelvin," a pseudonym generally used by actors who aren't happy with a role, just as "Alan Smithee" is used by directors who are embarrassed by a film -- usually because of studio interference.

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WARNING: Possible plot-spoiler below:

One of the things I thought was interesting in the film was the fact that Al Pacino's character, detective Will Dormer, is evading reality (the concrete aspects of which I won't reveal here) while working on a case in Alaska at the time of year when there is 24-hour sunlight. That's a great metaphor for the fact that reality is always present, always shining its light on things. The only way to evade it is to close one's eyes--but Will Dormer, because of his conscience, cannot sleep.

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