Films: Insomnia

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Insomnia

Insomnia

USA, 2002, 118 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Archival, Detective/Mystery, Drama, Thriller
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
Producer: (executive) George Clooney, (executive) Steven Soderbergh, Broderick Johnson, Paul Junger Witt
Editor: Dody Dorn
Screenwriter: Hillary Seitz, Nikolaj Frobenius, Erik Skjoldbjærg
Cinematographer: Wally Pfister
Principal Cast: Al Pacino, Hilary Swank, Robin Williams
US Distributor: Warner Bros.

Will Dormer (Al Pacino) is a weary veteran of the LAPD who travels to a small Alaskan town with his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) to investigate a disturbing murder. It’s summertime, the season of white nights; under the glare of near-perpetual sunlight—which only heightens the tension between the two detectives, who happen to have secrets of their own—they close in on the primary suspect, reclusive novelist Walter Finch (Robin Williams). But during a stakeout on a rocky, fog-shrouded beach, Finch slips away from Dormer, who goes for his gun—and Eckhart is killed.

Even as he struggles to cope with his guilt, Dormer is forced into a game of psychological cat-and-mouse by the brilliantly malevolent Finch. To make matters worse, he must contend with the young but eager and perceptive local cop (Hilary Swank) who increasingly suspects that there has been a cover-up. Unable to find shelter from the relentless midnight sun, the dangerously sleep-deprived detective begins to buckle under the weight of so much pressure.

On location in British Columbia and Alaska, director Christopher Nolan and director of photography Wally Pfister—who also worked together on Memento—crafted a shooting style that captures the sprawling, almost oppressively beautiful scenery without ever losing sight of the characters within it. “We created intimacy,” Pfister, an SDFF 31 tribute guest, has explained, by ensuring “the camera always stays with Will Dormer, either traveling in front of him or behind him or revealing his point of view. In this way, the audience explores the unfamiliar landscape with him, and they feel the light piercing through the windows as he desperately tries to sleep”—perchance to forget.

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