How a Scene from Christopher Nolan's 'Insomnia' Remake Compares to the Original Film

People often forget that Christopher Nolan didn't go from the small indie film Memento straight to Batman.

There was a $46 million remake called Insomnia in between that likely went a long way towards helping Nolan get more acquainted with the studio system — and on a movie with relatively low stakes (all things considered). Sure, his first film was made for peanuts, but if he had gone from $9 million Memento to $150 million Batman Begins, as so many indie directors are doing now, the transition might have been more difficult, and we may not have gotten the same Batman film we have now.

Either way, Insomnia is usually the movie that gets lost in his filmography, even with some terrific performances by Al Pacino and Robin Williams. While most remakes fail to live up to the original, it's pretty easy to argue that this retelling of the 1997 film Insomnia directed by  stands on its own as quality film. One of the ways it does that is by changing things up stylistically, and simply using the core story as inspiration. In this terrific video for Fandor Keyframe, Kevin B. Lee compares a pivotal scene from both films and shows how they used different methods to achieve a similar end result:

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Here is the trailer for Nolan's version (which shows you how much trailers have changed in the last decade):

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And the foreign version directed by :

This comparison is great because it shows how many different and legitimate ways you film scenes that accomplish the same goal. Nolan and Skjoldbjærg are also developing their main characters in a slightly different way, which more suits the style of acting for Pacino and Skarsgård, respectively. 

It's also a good lesson in Hollywood filmmaking versus much of Europe, with the remake aimed at an American audience that tends to like things a little louder and a bit faster. That might be a generalization, but for the most part whenever Hollywood remakes a foreign movie, they usually speed things up a bit. 

For more fantastic videos, check out Kevin B. Lee's Vimeo account and the one for Fandor Keyframe    

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Your Comment



August 28, 2015 at 3:43PM, Edited August 28, 3:43PM

Michael Markham

That's a great effort Kevin. Nice comparison of the techniques, color template makes so much difference to the narrative, Thanks for sharing Joe.

August 28, 2015 at 11:42PM

Arun Meegada
Moviemaker in the Making

Very interesting and i was surprised by how many similarities there were, rather than the differences. I'd love to see a comparison done with "The Vanishing" (1988 and 1993) - both directed by George Sluizer. Though I expect there'd be lots of sections where the later US remake shows "unneccessary violence" "stupid acting" and "the worst possible ending" added into the brilliant Dutch original. It should serve as a classic example of what happens when art meets the studio system.

September 3, 2015 at 4:30PM, Edited September 3, 4:30PM

Matt Jamie
Film Maker / Photographer