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|Index||173 reviews in total|
Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege), a
young couple in love, are on vacation in France. They stop at a busy
service station and Saskia is abducted. After three years and no sign
of Saskia, Rex begins receiving letters from the abductor.
This is quite an interesting film. While it relies on a similar theme as Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" and Robert Fuest's "And Soon the Darkness", it has quite the unique edge. I love that the story of both the boyfriend and the abductor are told. And not so we can sympathize with the abductor -- in fact, his motives become even more mysterious the more we know. It seems to be a Leopold and Loeb situation, but is never made explicit.
The film is great all along, but gets especially tense once the two men meet. What game is the abductor playing? Will the girl be found -- and if yes, alive or dead? So many questions. What would you do if you were in the same situation? Call the police? Take the chance? Kill the man?
Notably, the score from Henny Vrienten really hits hard, despite being mostly simple, basic tones. This is not the music you expect from Vrienten, given his background as part of a 1980s ska band.
Roger Ebert wrote, "One of the most intriguing things about The Vanishing is the film's unusual structure, which builds suspense even while it seems to be telling us almost everything we want to know." So true. We see the abductor planning his crime well before it even happens!
A remake came a few years later (1993) with Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock and Kiefer Sutherland, again directed by George Sluizer. I have not seen it, but based on the reviews, the original is the version to see.
All couples have their tiffs. Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) & Rex (Gene
Bervoets) are no different. The quickly patch it up and are laughing
and playing at a rest stop when Saskia disappears.
Rex spends the next three years searching for her while her abductor (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) is watching.
Director George Sluizer and screenwriter and novelist Tim Krabbé give us an intelligent story that is devoid of simple details and challenges until the end where we learn the truth.
There is no doubt that Rex is dealing with a madman. You cannot imagine what is going to happen next. It is certainly original.
Saskia is such a charming, winsome girl, it's no wonder boyfriend Rex
can't get over her disappearance. He's obsessed, but then he left her
alone once in the dark, and is fated never to repeat that first
A superior suspense film, tightly written, well thought out, and very well-acted, especially by Johanna Ter Steege as Saskia on whose performance the film turns. Bernard Donnadieu as the chemistry professor is also subtly effective, the very embodiment of what some call the 'banality of evil'-- a peculiarly passive, even bumbling mastermind, but also a shrewd and conniving opportunist. The family scenes of him at one calculated remove from loving wife and daughters are perhaps the most chilling of an extremely disturbing movie.
The unfolding story is not always easy to follow, but rewards are great. Philosophical themes are present but not in obtrusive or heavy-handed manner. Screenplay manages to combine these with dark psychological study such that elements come hauntingly together in final five minutes. It's a movie whose central ironies may not come into focus unless you think about the various threads.
I would think more of director George Sluizer's role in fashioning this sleeper were it not for the moment-of-decision scene in the park. Hyping that scene with phony thunder and lightning is totally unnecessary and at odds with the film's naturalistic style. It is a stagey distraction, and for that slip-up, the director must take ultimate blame.
I can't help but wonder what Hitchcock would have made of the material, particularly the peculiar bond between boyfriend Rex and tormentor Donnadieu. But then, he would likely have replaced the metaphysical aspect with more psychological study, whereas to me it is the successful combining of the two that makes the film so intriguing.
Highly recommended for those who understand that there's much more to fear in life than gallons of splattered blood.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When a movie brands itself in to your head so deeply, so indelibly,
there are three possible options that follow: Watch it again, show it
to a friend who's never seen it, or comment about it on the IMDb. 'The
Vanishing' or 'Spoorloos' in Flemish is one of those rare movies that
don't leave you weeks after you've watched it, and even manages to
haunt you in your sleep. That's a lot more than could be said for most
horror or thriller films made today.
It's genius lies in it's simplicity: a man and woman stop at a gas station on their way to a vacation get-away, his wife goes to the bathroom and the man goes to fill up his car. When the man is reappears, his wife is no longer there, she is gone, without a trace. This is the catalyst for a life-long search for answers, answers which the viewer are given access to early on in the film, but that remain a mystery to the main character until the very end. The story relies on tactful Hitchcockian logic to propel it through to its disturbing finale; an ordinary man becomes caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and becomes our eyes and ears to a world that is all very real and upside down - this story COULD happen, and it could happen to YOU. The main character only serves as our conduit to this world as he spirals further and further into the darkness that is a purely evil human soul. This film is deserving of comparison with Hitchcock's greatest films and Claude Chabrol's "Le Boucher", as the director plays very well on the suspense instrument to guide us through, even though we know enough to have the entire story figured out by the end of the first twenty minutes. Truly simple and disturbing film. Avoid the remake at all costs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A young couple from Amsterdam, Rex and Saskia, are on a road trip in
France. They stop at a highway rest stop for gas and when Saskia goes
to get some drinks... she never returns. This leads Rex to literally
bury himself in an obsessive search to find out what happened to
Saskia. Then one day he is contacted by a man who claims to be
responsible for her disappearance.
Like many movies produced outside of Hollywood this is a thriller that almost wholly abandons sensationalism. There is almost no violence, save for one fight scene. The depiction of obsession is very down to earth - no alcoholism, bizarre hallucinations - and surprisingly the cinematography is also not very "thriller-esque" for lack of a better word. There are nicely lit sunny days and restrained thriller music, yet the tension remains due to the good performances. For instance, the depiction of the sociopath is one of the most chilling due its overt harmlessness. Hollywood tends to straight out vilify the "bad guys" with messy appearances, bad childhoods, and so on. But this film shows the "bad guy" as a mild-mannered family man who works as a chemistry teacher and certain events in his life, shown through flashback, led him to become curious about several things, namely murder.
With the overall normal and everyday look and feel to the film, many people will be able to relate to the settings, but after watching this film you'll definitely think about just what could happen from stopping at a service station or sitting in a café. It's down to Earth, but in the end, creepy like few other movie's on the shelf next to it. 9/10
Not rated, but contains mature themes.
Like a jigsaw puzzle the pieces of the story slowly come together. Completely enthralling from start to finish. The tale of a man obsessed with finding out what happened to his missing girlfriend - and willing to undergo the same fate to discover it. Bit by bit the pieces come together to climax with a horrifying conclusion. The Hollywood version was made by the same director but obviously under instructions from the producers to tell it in a traditional manner to save American audiences from thinking. The Hollywood version also had a klunker of a happy ending that would make any audience groan. See the original, forget the remake.
A disturbing movie that will take you into realms usually reserved for Poe
and Lovecraft, `The Vanishing,' directed by George Sluizer, is a dark tale
that takes you into the twisted mind of a man named Raymond Lemorne
(Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), with implications that are truly frightening.
While on vacation, a young couple, Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia
Wagter (Johanna ter Steege), stop at a crowded rest area. While he fills
the car with gas, she goes into the store for some drinks. And she never
comes back. And, lest the scenario seem too improbable or implausible,
Sluizer proceeds to take you back through the days preceding the mysterious
disappearance; and once you meet Raymond, you begin to understand what
happened, and how. And when you finally know, it's as terrifying as
anything you could possibly imagine.
On the surface, Raymond appears to be a rather `normal' individual; he's married, with two children, and teaches science. He and his wife, Simone (Bernadette Le Sache), have recently purchased a country home which they are gradually restoring, and spend some time there with their children whenever they can. But hidden beneath Raymond's reserved and respected exterior is a sociopath capable of actions so heinous it defies comprehension.
Leading up to the day of the vanishing, the film alternates between scenes of Rex and Saskia vacationing, and Raymond, as he methodically plans and calculates his cold-blooded crime. And it's chilling, watching him prepare and fine-tune each step so matter-of-factly, as if he were staking out a new garden or planning a picnic with the family. It's unsettling, watching Rex and Saskia going about their business, blissfully unaware of the terror that awaits them.
What puts the real bite into the impact of this film is the way it's presented; this is no boogeyman-in-the-closet or `slasher' type horror film-- it goes way beyond that and takes you into a very real world of very real horror. Early on, of course, you know that Raymond is responsible for Saskia's disappearance. But don't have a clue as to what he's done with her or where she is-- dead or alive-- until the very end of the film.
The second half of the film concentrates on Hofman's obsessive quest to find out what happened to Saskia. Three years have elapsed, and he still doesn't have a clue (and neither does the audience at this point). Then something happens, something is revealed, and you follow along with Rex as he pursues the single clue he's been given after all this time. And as you watch him desperately trying to uncover the truth, you begin to hope with all your heart that he does. Because after a point it becomes excruciatingly clear that if he fails, you'll never know what happened, either.
Ter Steege lends an earthy vitality to the role of Saskia, with a performance that is entirely convincing and very real. Bervoets does a good job as well, credibly expressing the myriad emotional levels that Rex experiences. And Donnadieu, as Raymond, is absolutely disconcerting, exhibiting an off-handed nonchalance that evokes the image of a lion patiently stalking his prey.
The supporting cast includes Gwen Eckhaus (Lieneke), Tania Latarjet (Denise), Lucille Glenn (Gabrielle), David Bayle (Raymond at 16), Roger Souza (Manager) and Caroline Appere (Cashier). A sobering film that kind of sneaks up on you, `The Vanishing' does what most horror movies never really do-- it makes your skin crawl. The ending is rather startling in it's simplicity; it may even leave you nonplused for awhile. But once you've had some time to think about it and assimilate what actually happened, be prepared for a sleepless night or two. This is one that just isn't going to leave you alone. I rate this one 9/10.
Most discussion around this film centres on the ending (which I'm not going
to give away, don't worry!), but, to me, this is far from being the focal
point. True, I do like non-Hollywood endings (see "The Wicker Man"), but I
think this movie simply MUST end the way it does. It is the logical
conclusion, as all the themes in the story are pulled together.
Two key themes are those of coincidence and predestination: The series of events that conspire to ensure that Saskia becomes the victim, causes us to ponder the fragile nature of all human existence; The key scene in the film is the flashback to when, as a child, Raymond jumped from a balcony simply to prove that his free-will could overcome predestination or the rules of conventional behaviour. This is sociopathic behaviour, rather than psychopathic, but potentially just as dangerous. This leads on to what I think is the main theme of the movie, namely the almost limitless capacity of human beings to perform extraordinary acts. Whether they be motivated by passion, obsession or cold-blooded decision.
The screenplay is adapted from a story called "The Golden Egg", and the literary origin is reflected in the fractured time line in the narrative, and the slow, sparse nature of many of the scenes, including lots of silence (a staggeringly effective device, which Hollywood seems to have completely forgotten about), in which to ponder the abovementioned themes. This is about as far as it is possible to get from an action-packed, score-driven, star-name-laden blockbuster - like a cool, green oasis in a featureless desert.
The three main characters are all splendidly acted, particularly Saskia, which is a shame since she doesn't feature that much. Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as the frighteningly ordinary Raymond, creates a most memorable and believable villain. The scene in which Raymond finally initiates his abduction by chloroforming Saskia, with the camera fixed on her face as realisation, panic and despair appear in her eyes, is the most chilling and horrific thing I've ever seen on a movie screen. A haunting, thought-provoking and original masterpiece.
P.S. Goodness only knows what possessed George Sluizer when agreeing to direct the remake - presumably a VAST amount of money, but it would've been nice to think that there was still such a thing as artistic integrity or, at least, personal dignity (the same question arises with Robert Rodriguez's remaking of "El Mariachi").
Those unimpressed by SPOORLOOS are probably simply unused to seeing a horror film that employs neither repeated shock tactics nor blood and gore as a means to horrify the viewer. The fate befalling Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu's victims is indeed disturbing for many, but to describe SPOORLOOS merely as a "twist ending" film doesn't do it justice. The true horror of the movie lies within its studied, almost clinical exploration of sociopathic behaviour. For me Donnadieu's character, Raymond, is truly terrifying precisely because he DOESN'T appear evil or threatening, yet commits acts of extreme evil simply because he can find no reason not to. How many serial killers have we seen who, like Raymond, have apparently also been loving family men and hard-working members of society? Raymond could be the nice man living down the street from any one of us. SPOORLOOS is also about love and obsession and the torment of ignorance - Rex's behaviour, however irrational in the cold light of day, is down to the fact that he can no longer stand not knowing what happened to the woman he loved. Although a subtitled Dutch film with no stars and no knives is probably not everyone's idea of the perfect horror movie, if you like to think while you're being scared, SPOORLOOS is very much recommended. And no, don't see the exceedingly stupid Hollywood remake.
"The Vanishing" is a thriller that is completely devoid of blood, gore or
cheap shocks, and if one looks close enough, they'll also happen to notice
that it doesn't contain any actual VIOLENCE either. But it is also scary as
hell. Directed by George Sluizer, this foreign effort was completed in 1988,
but never found a North American release until 1991 because it was feared
that our audiences would never be to able handle the film's relentlessly
grim and nihilistic tone. Indeed, Sluizer tried to gain more exposure for
this highly acclaimed piece of work by directing a remake of it in 1993, but
the film was a cliched, Hollywoodized disaster that angered fans of the
original by changing its ending - which was one of the most shocking ever
put into a movie. But while this grave artistic mistake effectively put an
end to Sluizer's promising career, the bright side of it all is that it only
upped the realization that the original "Vanishing" was one-of-a-kind
All traditional genre cliches are chucked right out the window in this film. The story involves a Dutchman named Rex, who goes on vacation in France with his girlfriend, Saskia. The opening scenes establish how happy this couple is, but things suddenly take a turn for the worst, when they stop off at a gas station and Saskia disappears. We soon come to realize how big a nightmare a situation like this can be as Rex searches around for her in panic, and learns the horrifying news that she was seen leaving with another man. Three years pass by and Rex is still searching for her. His obsession takes over his life and sidetracks his relationship with another woman. During the opening scenes, we catch a brief glimpse of Raymond Lemorne, the man responsible for Saskia's disappearance, and soon after, the story switches to his perspective. It is here that "The Vanishing" establishes itself as a thriller that will be unlike all the rest, as Lemorne is presented as one of the most frightening but complex villains ever put on film. A successful and seemingly ordinary teacher with a loving wife and two daughters, his villainous actions is only provoked by that the fact that there is, quite simply, nothing that can technically stop him from doing so. He is very smart, but not exactly perfect at what he does. There are scenes in this movie that manage to be both funny and chilling at the same time as Lemorne practices his kidnapping routine, and then pathetically tries to lure young women into his car without any success. His scheme fails many times until he meets Saskia.
This may sound like pretty nihilistic stuff, but as stated in the opening paragraph, it is all done with a complete absence of violence and gore. Much of "The Vanishing"'s impact is produced from what we imagine rather than what we can see. The film may not seem that suspenseful at first glance, but the tension builds up so subtly that by the time the film is over, one is surprised at how drained they actually are. Sluizer's storytelling genius stems from the fact that the audience is so anxious to find out what happened to Saskia, yet when the truth finally arrives, we are almost wishing he hadn't told us. Even Rex, who has had his life completely taken over by his obsession about Saskia's fate, ends up realizing that he would have been better off not knowing either. I will not go into the specifics about the ending of the film, only to say that it is one of the most shocking you will ever see - and therefore, one of the best. Unlike most twist endings, it manages to pull off the supremely difficult feat of seeming both surprising and inevitable at the same time. Even if you can't stand the concept of subtitles, all fans of the thriller genre are urged to check the original "Vanishing" out at all costs. It will make you think twice before ever making contact with a stranger again.
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