I’m really glad I watched the Norwegian version of Insomnia (1997) first. The 2002 remake pretty much stuck to the same script, but with a few different angles. The opening of the 2002 I found much more commanding. You really saw and appreciated the isolation, ice-capped mountains, dense forests and fogs of northern Norway, more so than in the original. And I liked that in the American version, the suspect had dogs; that was a nice touch — made it a bit more likely that his story about it being an accident was more likely true, at first anyway.
I think when I watched the original with the subtitles, I missed some of the nuances about the problems the Inspector was having with internal affairs, in the States in the 2002 version. This is why he has so much trouble with the accidental shooting of his partner — he seems uncertain, himself, as to whether it was an accident or not. And the lady cop, played by Hilary Swank in the American version, has a much more important role in the story — all the way through but especially at the end, which was different.
It’s quite prophetic when Inspector Dormer (Al Pacino) is looking at the body of the victim in the morgue and says, “He crossed the line with this one. You don’t come back from that.” It’s not only prophetic for the killer, Walter Finch (Robin Williams in one of his more serious and sinister roles) but also for himself. He, too crosses the line, but at the very end he succeeds in coming back from it — only just.
There was quite a bit of abusive sex in the original that was left out in the remake, but the remake had its share of foul language. The shack in the newer movie was in a much more isolated place that made it more believable, I thought, as a place of privacy for clandestine meetings, and I liked the way the tip-off to the suspect came from an accidental squeal from a megaphone. Also, the differences between the partners from Los Angeles (Pacino and Martin Donovan) was much more visible, which lent itself to the question of whether the shooting was really accidental or not, and Pacino hallucinates during the search, thinking he sees his partner as one of the searchers. Nice touch!
All in all, I think I preferred the American remake but I’m glad I watched both. The foreign one was interesting, partly because of the actors being unknown to me, but I thought the American one, perhaps with a bigger budget, showed the setting off better and I liked the changes to the script — especially the ending. Absolutely amazing! * * * * *