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The Vanishing (1988)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: George Sluizer

Starring:
Gene Bervoets/Rex
Bernard Pierre Donnadieu/Raymond
Johanna ter Steege/Saskia
10 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Lovers Rex (Bervoets) and Saskia (ter Steege) are on holiday. They stop at a crowded service station to pick up some drinks and Saskia mysteriously vanishes without warning. Rex dedicates the next three years of his life trying to find out what happened to her. Then, her abductor makes contact with him…
THE LOWDOWN
Not to be confused with the poor American remake that goes by the same name (and is directed by the same dude), this Dutch/French production really hit me where it counts. Why? Because atrocities like this can really happen. The film approaches its somber subject matter with both feet always grounded in reality and that makes it genuinely scary.

The film begins by exploring all of its relationships and characters thoroughly. We feel that the events taking place are happening to “real” people, not film characters. Having the actors be unknown (to me anyways) also helped reel me deeper into the world of the film. I also loved the chemistry Rex and Saskia displayed early on. In my opinion, the flick couldn’t have worked without it. It provides a strong emotional base upon which to build the story. It will ring true to anybody who’s ever had a long-term girlfriend. When Saskia eventually disappeared I couldn’t help but feel Rex’s anguish, frustration and despair. I was there with him.

The flick also showcases an unorthodox structure and gives us two points of views on what happened to poor Saskia. From the victim’s eyes (Rex), and in a daring move, from the perpetrator's eyes (Raymond). The film spends mucho time with its villain and gives us an extensive insight as to who he is and what led him to commit this cruel act. This has to be one of the scariest portrayals of evil that I have ever seen on-screen because it’s so plausible. This dude could be my neighbor for God’s sakes! Since the kidnapper’s identity isn’t the mystery, what became of Saskia is. The film teases us along the way with hints or clues and much like the villain in the picture, the story unfolds at a methodological pace, never giving us too much but always giving us enough to keep our eyes riveted to the screen.

Not solely contenting itself in being a brilliant character study and a tight thriller, "The Vanishing" also takes the time to comment on the theme of “fate” and uses symbolism to drive that point home (the dream of the “golden eggs”). In consequence, the film offers us the occasional beautiful, stylish image (the tunnel being my fav) that give a poetic aura to the picture. In the end, "The Vanishing" accomplishes everything it sets out to do. It sports tight dialogue, layered characters, strong actors, surprising plot turns, solid directing and a penchant to go against the standard “thriller” conventions. Everything comes together perfectly to offer us a flawless film. Don’t let this one slip through your fingers…
GORE
None and I didn’t want any.
ACTING
I warmed up to Gene Bervoets’ (Rex) character and his down-to-earth, natural performance came through. Bernard Pierre Donnadieu (Raymond) is chilling as the kidnapper. He gives a layered and focused show. The scenes Bervoets and Donnadieu share are pure acting gold. Johanna ter Steege (Saskia) charmed the pants out of me as the girlfriend. Her performance is very honest, which in turn, augments the impact of her disappearance.
T & A
None and I didn’t want any of that either.
DIRECTING
George Sluizer comes across as a more intellectual Hitchcock. He handles all of the film’s elements masterfully, has a firm grasp on his actors and visually knows when to shoot for realism or style. Very impressive show. What happened to this guy? I guess "The Vanishing" re-make buried his promising career. Too bad…
SOUNDTRACK
An effective and eerie score by Henry Vrienten that augments the impact of the images.
DVD FEATURES
Criterion Collection DVD

IMAGE: We get a beautiful Widescreen letterbox - 1.66:1 image and I didn’t pick up any flaws.

SOUND: We get Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono-French/Dutch that serves the film well, but I still think that Dolby Digital Surround would have been better. The film has an option for English subtitles since it's in Dutch and French.

EXTRAS: We only get the film’s original Theatrical Trailer. A director commentary would have been nice.

Even though the disk is “bare bones”, I’m still happy to have a great version of the movie in my collection. Thank you Criterion!
BOTTOM LINE
"The Vanishing" is a brilliantly crafted intellectual thriller. It’s a character study, a reflection on evil and at the same time, it’s about true love. I always say that a good film makes me "feel". This one engaged me emotionally from the get-go and all the way through the end. One thing is for sure: I'll never take my eyes off one of my girlfriends again…not for one second. Nobody is vanishing on my ass!
BULL'S EYE
In 1993, George Sluizer remade his classic for the Americans. It starred Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock. Of course, it didn’t measure up. Why did they have to change the ending???

The film is also known as “L’ Homme Qui Voulait Savoir” and “Spoorloos”.

The film is based on the book “The Golden Egg” by Tim Krabbe who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with director George Sluizer.
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