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George Sluizer's "Spoorloos" (called "The Vanishing" in English) is not
like any movie that you've ever seen. It initially focuses on the
disappearance of a Dutch tourist (Johanna ter Steege) at a gas station
and how her boyfriend (Gene Bervoets) searches for her for years...but
then it changes. The focus then shifts to the perpetrator
(Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), and we see how he leads what appears to be
the most ordinary life. He could be your best friend. And finally, the
movie's ending is a real shocker.
I read that the movie is based on an urban legend about a girl who gets separated from her mother, but then no one recalls having ever seen her mother. In that sense, the movie deals with despair. How would you cope if this happened to you? Still, what we learn about the perpetrator is what truly makes this such a good movie. It poses the question of how well anyone truly knows anyone else. There was apparently an American remake of this movie, but I'll just avoid that one. But I do recommend this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
George Sluizer recently remade this, his own original Dutch version, in
America with Kiefer Sutherland and Jeff Bridges. A more audience
pleasing, action type film, it was quite an entertaining work.
The original is set in France as we find two young Dutch people, Rex Holfman and his 'friend' Saskia, on the way to a little hideaway in rural France. Their pleasant little getaway takes a cruel turn when Saskia disappears at a highway road stop. After a desperate three year search, Rex is confronted by Raymond, a man who claims to be the abductor.
The storyline is a lot more realistic than the re-make, with Sluizer simply using the two main characters to involve his audience, by first allowing us to obsess along with Rex about the whereabouts of his lost love, and secondly by slowly introducing us to the disturbed Frenchman Raymond.
Lead players Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege and support are very good as is Sluizer's thoughtful direction, while the plot unfolds itself at a well judged pace. And the ending, which is quite different to the more recent film, is a much more suitable, believable and disturbing one. This superior 1988 Dutch movie is well worth your while.
Sunday, January 23, 1994 - Video
George Sluizer directed the brilliant, unforgettable Dutch/French
suspense flick Spoorloos aka The Vanishing (not to be confused with the
wretched 1993 American remake, which he was also directed--difficult as
that is to fathom), a potent, haunting, and impressively nuanced
thriller. . As for the original, it remains a remarkably effective
psychological thriller and an obvious influence on films as diverse as
Breakdown, Joy Ride and With a Friend Like Harry. Not to mention, the
theme of disappearance has been attempted by many great directors
(Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes), but it has never been done as spooky
as it is here. It belies how strange life is and how relevant our
The film begins with a young Amsterdam couple on vacation in the south of France. They have apparently not been together for a long time as they are still getting to know each other, getting in tune with each other's rhythms. At one point Saskia relates to Rex a terrifying recurring dream she can't explain, which really haunts her when their car runs out of gas in the middle of a deep tunnel. Later, they stop at a park for a short time, and Saskia decides to go into a convenience store to get drinks. But she never returns. After awhile, Rex naturally becomes frantic and goes to the police.
Suddenly the film shifts its focus to the story of Raymond, an ordinary family man, a teacher who is also a self-absorbed intellectual. He is obsessed with the idea of good vs. evil and sets out to experiment with the possibility that he might have an evil side he has never tapped. How Raymond's experiments tie into Saskia's disappearance makes for a fascinating game that eventually takes on cat-and-mouse proportions but does not go down the roads you will expect.
This film is so well-crafted, that it is easy to get carried away and think that more is being said than what has transpired. But in the simplicity of its story, it becomes easy to identify with the Amsterdam couple and feel caught up in their dreamworld which intermingles with their real-life. A film that is very much in the Hitchcock suspense mode.
Honestly I dint hear about the movie until I saw the top 100 horror flicks from IMDb. Once I got my hands on this one, it was a hard choice not to see it. Well the movie was a simple and good one. Definitely disturbing for the 80's but owing to too much of violence and blood splattering movies it might not be too shocking for present day audience. This movie is different from other kidnap movies because we know all the time who is involved in it. Only difference is the relentless pursuit of Saskia's boy friend to know what happened to her. Well the tension and surrealness of the situation is very nicely shown by the lead actors and panache and effortless kidnapping of saskia is amazing. Definitely a good movie, but something seriously short making it not a contender for a great movie. Still deserves a good 9/10.
I think this is one of the best European films of all time. I was a bit disappointed at first, because I thought that having to read subtitles would ruin the movie for me, but it didn't at all. Vanishing had everything: suspense, comedy, horror, a little romance, good acting, beautiful locations, a great villain and a perfect ending. The suspense had me glued to the screen the entire time and the final scene beats any ending in American motion picture history. I recommend this to any fan of Hitchcock or if you liked Psycho or American Psycho. Although I haven't seen the American remake of it, I doubt I will, because there's no such thing as a good remake of a classic like this one.
***SPOILERS*** Starting out on a summer biking vacation in France Dutch
couple Rax Hoffman and Saskia Wagter, Gene Bervoets & Johanna Ter
Steege,have their spats as the car their driving runs out of gas, in
the middle of a mountain tunnel. Rex leaving Saskia alone walks to the
nearest gas station to get a jerry can of gasoline. Coming back to the
stranded car Rex doesn't find Saskia and getting in the car and driving
out of the tunnel he sees her waiting for him outside. You get the
impression that the two are on the outs but later their back together
as if nothing happened but something terrible is about to happen to
them and it's strikes the unsuspecting couple at a time and place that
they would least expect it to.
Stopping at a crowded gas-station and food rest stop Saskia leaves Rex for what would be just a moment to buy some refreshments and is never seen or heard from again. It's as if she just stepped off the face of the earth and fell into a black hole in space. Based on the Tim Krabbe novel "The Golden Egg" the film "The Vanishing" is about how a person can come up with, and execute, the most evil acts imaginable and at the same time come across totally normal to not only himself but to everyone around him.
Raymond Lemorne, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, is a loving family man and chemistry professor but suffers from an obsession of wanting to know if the sick acts that his mind conjurer's up can also be put into practice. Since he was 16 Lemorne has had thoughts of committing murder just to see how it feels. Now in his mid 30's he's about to make his "wish" come true at the expense of Saskia Wagter but what he didn't expect is how it would effect her friend and lover Rex Hoffman.
We know from the start that Lemorne was somehow responsible for Saskia's disappearance seeing him hanging around the gas station eying her, as well as a number of other young women, before she vanished. It was the three or so years after Siskia's vanishing that got to the morbid and deranged Lemorne working overtime. It was Rex not letting Saskia's name out of the news that somehow started to get under Lemorne's skin.
Finally getting up enough courage to finally face Rex back in Holland showing him proof, Saskia's car-keys, and then getting his a** kicked in among other things. Lemeorne then gets the now somewhat sedated and curious young man to drive back with him to France to the gas station where Saskia was last seen alive by him some three years ago. We get a chilling minute-by-minute flashback to what happened to Saskia at the gas station from Lemorne himself as he cleverly got her to get in his car, in a crowded area in broad daylight, and then knocking her out with a chloroform-laced handkerchief and driving off with her.
Rex desperately wanting to find out from Lemorne what happened to Saskia goes along with his sick game of cat and mouse that leads to this dark and deserted park outside a gas station. It's where where Lemorne gives him a cup of coffee laced with sleeping pills to put Rex, who willingly goes along with it, into the same condition that he put Saskia in three years ago. Rex at first hesitates but his curiosity gets the best of him and drinks the brew falling into a deep sleep and when he awakes he finds out the truth of what happened to his beloved Saskia but at the cost of his life.
Not at all pleasant to watch "The Vanishing" is the kind of movie that leaves you both physically and mentally numb and is undoubtedly one of the most chilling horror films to come out in the last fifty or so years; rivaling such horror classics of the 1960's and 1970's like "Psycho" and "The Exorcist". The fact that "The Vanishing" is so unconventional in it's story-line and has such unique characters in it that it's for that and that very reason alone, more then anything else, the movie has had over the years such a disturbing and devastating effect on it's audiences.
I'll be brief - you need to see this twice.
1st time - with a friend who hasn't seen it either (make sure nobody tells you the ending). If either of you have the least bit of imagination, you will be chilled for days afterwards. That's chilled as in devastated...
2nd time - watch it with someone else who hasn't seen it and savour their MY GOD! ... OH NO! reaction to the ending. BUT - at the same time look for all the details that YOU missed the first time around. There are many, many clues as to what the teacher is planning.
Spoorloos, or The Vanishing with subtitles, is a magnificent film. True to the book (I sought it out, and it's well worth it), true to itself ... it doesn't cop out, no compromise.
Ten out of ten, no question.
This film is, in one word: Amazing. Many people have already describe
The Vanishing as one of the true masterpieces of the suspense thriller
genre, and they clearly weren't wrong.
From its original and well-written plot to the outstanding acting delivered by Johanna Ter Steege (who looked incredibly gorgeous), Bernard- Pierre Donnadieu (who might as well be the most cold-blooded criminal in any film ever) and Gene Bervoets (who made you feel Rex's torment and madness in every line). And let's not forget about the musical score, especially the song at the beginning of the film, which is haunting and very saddening and fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the movie.
All in all, a must see for everyone who enjoys good films.
I had seen the remake of this movie, but they are quite different. The
American movie is a typical good-guy-against-the bad-guy story that is
made in a formula manner.
Spoorloos is a slow paced film that is disturbing by how normal each event seems when taken on face value.
The story is well laid out and the reason for why each character performs the way they do is told well.
The movie is very low key. Devoid of explosions, major fight scenes or unbelievable coincidences, it provides opportunities for the viewer to consider what they would do and how each of the characters could be believed to have done what they did.
Dark, depressing, and ultimately a very well made movie.
The plot to this one is simple enough, a very much in-love young man,
Rex, takes his eyes off his girlfriend Saskia for a fateful couple of
minutes, and she mysteriously vanishes forever.
Fast forward to 3 years later, and the disappearance has taken it's toll on the devastated Rex. He can accept that his girlfriend must be dead by now. But it's the not knowing how it happened which is tearing him apart.
Thus Rex is completely unable to move on with his life, until one day a stranger makes contact with him, offering to show him what happened to Saskia, but only if he is willing to suffer the same fate as she did; whatever that might be.
That such a simple idea works as a movie is down to it's believability; the events of this movie could easily happen to you and your loved ones. After all, hundreds of people disappear in real life everyday, and not always because they bump into a ridiculously over-the-top villain, with a patch over one eye, a scar on his cheek and an evil hissing voice.
Sometimes, as here, the villain of the piece may be a successful but ordinary family man, surrounded by unsuspecting loved ones of his own, who has no great need or motive to inflict suffering on others, but decides to do so anyway, just to see what it feels like. And it is the pointlessness of that act that makes it all the more chilling.
Furthermore the movie works because of the genuine chemistry between the two leading parts, who play the lovestruck Rex and the happy-go-lucky, delightful, but ill-fated Saskia. Not since I watched the death of Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks has film so successfully conveyed such a sense of loss over the disappearance of a bright young life.
In summary, The Vanishing is a very moving picture, which will reward film fans who understand that the everyday evil inherent in mankind is far more believable and haunting than the CGI from any Hollywood creature feature.
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