The Vanishing (Spoorloos)

Dir. George Sluizer
IMDb 7.8/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 100%
Won European Film Award – Best Supporting Actor
Won Dutch Film Critics Award
Won Mystfest Best Screenplay
Won Fantasporto – Best Director & Best Actor
Empire Magazine “The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema” #67

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My viewing of this film was by pure chance. I was originally trying to watch Immortals (bleh), but I could not find it. After that search, I turned on Hulu plus, went to the criterion collection, and randomly chose to watch this film. A minute or so in I turned the film off because the main characters were speaking Dutch & French; although I felt some strange sensation that I need to watch this and I’m glad I did. It has been a while since I have watched it though around 5 months i’m assuming.

The film opens up to a Dutch couple Rex & Saskia driving on a clear summer day in France. On their journey, the gas runs out inside a tunnel causing them to get into an argument and Rex leaves Saskia behind to get gas. Upon his return he searches for her but can not find her, but eventually he finds her. The two then arrive at a petrol station. Rex notices that Saskia is upset so he makes a promise to never leave her again. Saskia goes into the market to grab some drinks for the trip, while he remains at the car taking photos. Time goes by and she never returns. He frantically searches for her, but does not succeed. His vow to never leave her again a led him on an unhealthy 3 year obsession to find what out what happened to her. His relentless search for her causes his current girlfriend to become dissatisfied with the relationship. Rex’s vigorous search and flyers also attracts the attention of the abductor. Now I want to say from early on in the film the abductors identity is revealed. The abductor is a well mannered professor with a family, but a twisted secret that lives with him daily. He gets in contact with Rex saying he has information, but begins to play games with Rex. The story behind the abductor’s life is told and we learn about him. Thus leading up to one of most terrifying endings shown on film.

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The structure of the film is quite different from most films apart from a few flashbacks. The decision to reveal the abductor was strange, but to have him interact with the main character was different and quite unnerving. Nevertheless this was a brilliant decision by the director Sluizer, because in the novel he adapted this from did not have that happen. It worked well with the tone of the film. A person who abducts an innocent lady must already have some problems but this guy finds it interesting that Rex is still searching for answers. The story focuses on the characters behaviors, emotions, and knowledge. This is executed outstandingly because the actors are able to become the characters.

We are able to identify with Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) through his girlfriends abduction and his never ending search to find her. This is something most people would attempt to do and we want him to find the abductor and reunite with Saskia. In the beginning the dutch couple are together and share deep emotions with each other. His downward spiral of mental health pulls on the strings of your heart. The abductor (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) is a middle-class Frenchman. Without giving to much away, at a young age he discovers something that will alter his life and places him on a quest to commit something of ultimate evil. Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) is great in this film at expressing her emotions. She is very likable and when the flashback occurs and you see how things go down at the gas station. An array of emotions are felt her knowing that her fate is inevitable, yet hopes for her to escape still linger.

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The only flaw is the language barrier. It can become difficult to take the movie in as a whole when you are stuck reading lines at the bottom. However this shouldn’t be a huge problem, some of the greatest films are in different languages as well. The pacing of this film is great. The mystery and suspense to have the questions being asked revealed is timed to perfection. Don’t hold me to this, but this movie is close to being a masterpiece. Of course this film is remade by Americans. Kiefer Sutherland, Jeff Bridges, and Sandra Bullock did a remake a few years later, but it didn’t receive the same praise as Spoorloos, well hardly any recognition at all.

The Vanishing is a near perfect psychological thriller, that delivers information at all the right moments, with sinister elements in the plot leading all the way up to the shocking climax. I know that this film is on Hulu, but you may also watch it on youtube for free with English subtitles included. It will come up saying 2013 French Thriller. Why does it say that? I have no idea. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpGNPkdknvc  Enjoy 🙂

Rating: ★★★★★ / ★★★★★

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“Sometimes I imagine she’s alive. Somewhere far away. She’s very happy. And then, I have to make a choice. Either I let her go on living and never know, or I let her die and find out what happened. So… I let her die”
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