Insomnia (1997)

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Released 12-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 92:06 (Case: 97)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Erik Skjoldbjærg
Norsk Film AS
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Stellan Skarsgard
Maria Mathiesen
Sverre Anker Ousdal
Gisken Armand
Thor Michael Aamodt
Frode Rasmussen
Bjørn Floberg
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Geir Jenssen

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Norwegian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is the original version of Insomnia, the Norwegian film on which the recent remake of the same name starring Robin Williams and Al Pacino was based. The plot of this movie and the remake are extremely similar, varying for the most only in minor ways. There are, however, two significant differences. Firstly, the ending is quite different and secondly, this movie is set in Norway whereas the remake is set in Alaska. If you are interested in the remake you can read our review of that movie here.

    When the body of  Tanja Lorentzen (Maria Mathiesen), a teenage girl, is discovered on a rubbish dump in a town in the north of Norway, two Swedish detectives, Jonas Enstrom (Stellan Skarsgård), and Erik Vik (Sverre Anker Ousdal) are dispatched to help solve the crime. Enstrom, although a talented homicide investigator, is in disgrace as a result of being caught in a compromising situation with a witness in another crime and is a topic for gossip by the local police.

    Initial interrogation of the victim's boyfriend, Eilert (Bjørn Moan), turns up the fact that Tanja had been seeing someone else, however the identity of this person is a mystery. When Tanja's rucksack turns up outside a shack near where her body was found and is handed in, the police announce that they are still looking for it and set up surveillance at the shack in the hope of capturing the killer. The  killer turns up to the now fog-bound cabin and as the police pursue him and exchange gunfire, Enstrom accidentally shoots and kill his partner, Vik. Enstrom fails to admit that he is the one that killed his partner and allows the others to think that the murderer is responsible.

    The continuous 24 hour a day sunlight together with his conscience begins to take its toll on Enstrom, preventing him from sleeping. Soon he begins to hallucinate, seeing his dead partner as he continues in his search for the murderer. To say more would be giving away too much of the plot of this nicely constructed and executed thriller. However, I'm sure that you can guess that Enstrom's responsibility for his partner's death comes back to haunt him.

    Be warned that this DVD has significant problems that are described in more detail in the video section, either due to bad mastering or manufacturing. It's not known how widespread the problem is, however our review disc is not unique as at least one other disc that we know of exhibits the same problems.

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Transfer Quality


    Unfortunately, this DVD is seriously flawed with the picture either momentarily breaking up into blocks or completely freezing on so many occasions that I gave up counting. This fault occurs so frequently (at 3:19, 4:00, 5:02, 12:56, 13:08, 17:08, 21:20, 14:39, 25:18, 26:16, 26:25, 26:49 to list just the occurrences in the first 30 minutes) that the movie is a pain to watch. If I were you, I'd avoid this disc like the plague until this is remedied.

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with 16x9 enhancement. This is very close to its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The image is mostly very sharp, however, there is the occasional soft camera shot. Minor edge enhancement is present, but it is easily overlooked. There are no problems with shadow detail in this mostly brightly lit film.

    The colours are mostly vivid although they occasionally appear slightly washed out. Since I haven't seen this movie theatrically it's difficult to say whether this was an intentional choice on the part of the director or whether it was introduced during the transfer to DVD, although I do suspect that this is the correct look for the film and is intentionally used to enhance the feeling of continuous bright daylight. There are also some examples of oversaturation, for example at 14:11.

    There are no compression artefacts, just the odd film artefact in the way of the occasional small mark and an infrequent touch of mild aliasing such as at 38:16.

    English subtitles are provided which is a good thing as the dialogue is in Norwegian. As I don't speak Norwegian I can't comment on the accuracy of the subtitles, however I can tell you that they are quite legible, appearing in yellow text towards the bottom left of the screen. I watched these all the way through and noted that they contained a few grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

    As this disc is a single sided single layered disc, no layer change is present.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The flaw mentioned in the video section also affects the audio. While not every instance of  video break up was accompanied by an audio dropout, a number of them were.

    A single Norwegian audio track in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding is provided.

    Taking into consideration the fact that I don't understand Norwegian, I would still venture to say that the dialogue appeared to be quite clear despite some noticeable hiss being present. I wasn't aware of any problems with the audio sync.

    Geir Jenssen's interesting musical score, while quite enjoyable, didn't for me at least really seem to enhance the feeling of tension necessary in any thriller.

    The subwoofer is used in support of the musical score but never aggressively. Similarly, the surrounds are used but only subtly to provide ambience and for the score.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are limited to a theatrical trailer and some still photographs.


    The menus are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and they are 16x9 enhanced. The menu features Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio but there is no animation.


    This is a collection of about 2 dozen still photographs from the film. These are displayed in various ratios within a 1.78:1 frame and are 16x9 enhanced. There is no audio.

Theatrical Trailer

    This runs for 1:13 and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement. The Norwegian audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded. No subtitles have been provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    The R1 appears to be the superior disc because as far as I am aware it doesn't have the flaws present in the local release.


    Insomnia is a well crafted thriller that will hold your interest from beginning to end if you can overlook the incredibly annoying flaws present on the disc.

    The video is seriously flawed.

    The audio is also flawed.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Terry K
The DVD Bits - Damien M
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Andrea G

Comments (Add)
Criterion -
No pic problems -
Your disc might be faulty -
Umbrella should recall Disc -
Umbrella quality control -