The Vanishing

foreign films

The Vanishing (Spoorloos)
Made in: The Netherlands, France
Language: Dutch, French
Director: George Sluizer
Starring: Gene Bervoets, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Johanna ter Steege, Gwen Eckhaus
Year: 1988

Synopsis: Based on the novel by Tim Krabbé. Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege) are a young Dutch couple who take a road trip from Amsterdam to France. After getting into a brief but heated argument, they arrive at a rest stop and make up.

Like rest stops here in the US, this one is equipped with a convenience store (you know, the ones that sometimes get robbed on shows like America's Wildest Videos). As Saskia goes in to buy some coffee and a Coke, Rex waits. But she never returns. Questioning other possible witnesses proves fruitless, even when some of them go out of their way to help.

It appears that Saskia has simply vanished into thin air!

Three years later, her disappearance is still unresolved. Rex is still obsessed with finding Saskia, even though he has met a new woman named Lieneke (Gwen Eckhaus). But then he begins receiving messages from Saskia's abductor, a man named Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). Raymond is a chemistry professor, a family man, and looks pretty normal.

We then see how Raymond meticulously planned Saskia's abduction, as well as all the little steps that explain his sick behavior.

The Good: The Vanishing is a chilling film, and an intriguing look at how a sociopath operates. It'll make you think of movies like Seven, where some sick but intelligent person sets up some sort of twisted game.

To George Sluizer's credit, he creates a no-frills experience that's carried by convincing performances, solid camera work, and editing. There are no stylized visual effects, no MTV-like graphics, and no ear-piercing soundtrack to remind you how dark everything's supposed to be.

The Bad: Although the storyline is timeless, the whole film looks dated (80s clothes, the big hair, etc). And since we've been exposed to stylized visual effects, MTV-like graphics, and ear-piercing soundtracks by groups like Nine Inch Nails, this film will have a hard time competing with many viewers' attention spans.

Who would like this movie: The Vanishing is for you if you already appreciate foreign films, and had previous exposure to "art" movies. If you happen to be studying film, it's a good example of how to make a coherent mystery/thriller about a sociopath without relying on fancy effects, profanity, or extreme violence.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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