Altered States

On the surface, Pi's superficially cyberpunkish style would seem to type it as the darker film, especially since Insomnia takes place in the northern Norwegian land of the midnight sun. But where Pi's investigator is rarely portrayed as less than trustworthy, Insomnia's seems dubious at best--what you might call an unreliable narrator. As in Basic Instinct, the detective has a hair-trigger temperament and is himself being investigated by a mysterious and manipulative suspect--who, being a crime-thriller novelist (just like Sharon Stone's Catherine Trammell), casts a few playful aspersions on the policeman's personal narrative. "Sometimes one has to alter the truth," says the writer (Bjorn Floberg), tauntingly hinting at the Skarsgard character's immoral methods. That the cop can't sleep suggests another layer of delusion: Is Insomnia's living nightmare only happening in his mind?

The search for signs of intelligent life in the industry: Sean Gullette (with Slinky) in Darren Aronofsky'sPi
The search for signs of intelligent life in the industry: Sean Gullette (with Slinky) in Darren Aronofsky'sPi

Director Erik Skjoldbjaerg hits on a unique visual conceit for his debut, delivering a film noir set entirely during the day. Accordingly, the movie's enigma isn't so much brought to light as left to sit baking in the sun until the cop's weathered condition becomes the viewer's. Skjoldbjaerg's tightly wound plot allows the audience little time to relax, although, lacking Sundance hype, Insomnia does feel like a sleeper.

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