“ Genre: Crime & Thriller - Thriller / Theatrical Release: 1993 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: George Sluizer / Actors: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege, Gwen Eckhaus, Bernadette Le Saché ... / DVD released 2002-07-22 at Nouveaux Pictures / Features of the DVD: PAL, Widescreen, Colour, Subtitled „
The Vanishing is based on a book (The Golden Egg) by Dutch journalist Tim Krabbe, which I have to say is one of the most mesmerising, dispiriting books I've ever read, it is an utterly stunning piece of work, so as with any reader who watches the film, I expected the worst. In its original title, the film is called Spoorloos.
Directed by George Sluizer this film tells a similar story, we begin with Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) a dutch man whose girlfriend Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) has disappeared at a petrol station in France while they are on a short holiday together.
Rex searches everywhere but can find no sign of her, he continues to hunt for her for years and launches missing person enquiries and allows his search to utterly take over his life and obsess him, he feels a mixture of responsibility, anger and curiosity as to how and why this could have happened.
Years later, as his new girlfriend finally gives up on him, Rex receives a call from a man who is prepared to tell him where Saskia is and what happened, but there is a catch which Rex must consider and decide what the most important thing in his life is.
Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu ... Raymond Lemorne
Gene Bervoets ... Rex Hofman
Johanna ter Steege ... Saskia Wagter
Gwen Eckhaus ... Lieneke
Bernadette Le Saché ... Simone Lemorne
Tania Latarjet ... Denise Lemorne
Lucille Glenn ... Gabrielle 'Gaby' Lemorne
Roger Souza ... Manager
Caroline Appéré ... Cashier
Pierre Forget ... Farmer Laurent
Didier Rousset ... TV Journalist
Raphaeline ... Gisele Marzin (as Raphaëline)
Robert Lucibello ... Teacher
David Bayle ... Lemorne (16 Years)
Doumee ... Lady 'Prisunic' (as Doumée)
I love this film, it is possibly the best known Dutch film ever and adheres to the ethics and processes of the book perfectly, it is in the end less about the disappearance of Saskia and moreabout Rex and his understanding of himself, his relationship with Saskia and his life. The film is shot in a style which is drab and honest and makes it all the more real because of it. The acting is excellent with Bervoets superb in the main role and everybody else is utterly believable too.
The film is a chilling suspense film and the music helps to build the mood perfectly to its devastating climax, its perfect in almost every way.
I found the conclusion as chilling as the book but it is the right ending and avoids any Hollywood desire to glamorise it. Although having said that the Director took the film to Hollywood and remade it, so I'll watch that and advise if this is of similar quality of even necessary at all.
Overall, forget the subtitles and read the book and watch this film they are utterly enthralling and this is a true 5 out of 5 film. I really hope the Kiefer Sutherland remake isn't a Hollywood version removing the typically European realism and pessimism and replacing it with a fake, smiley, happy ending. This is a film about two men with psychological disorders and a woman, it was never going to have a happy ending.
Available for £5.81 on Amazon with English subtitles, the DVD includes a gallery of stills, directors filmography and an amazing film.
A young Dutch couple, Rex and Saskia, travel to France for a holiday. Calling in at a service station, Saskia goes to buy some drinks...and never returns. Rex searches for her, to no avail, and the police aren't really that interested in helping him. Then Rex starts to receive a series of letters from the kidnapper, asking to meet up with him. Each time Rex goes to the meeting place, however, the kidnapper doesn't show up. Unable to move on, despite getting together with a new girlfriend, Rex is beginning to think he will never find out what happened to Saskia. Then the kidnapper shows himself. Will he reveal what happened to Saskia? And could Rex be in danger himself?
Gene Bervoets plays Rex and is really amazing in the role. Clearly in love with Saskia, he is truly devastated at her disappearance - watching him chase around the service station looking for her is really moving. The story then skips three years, and Rex is a much harder man, but has never given up the hope that one day, he will find what happened to Saskia. Occasionally, he comes close to madness. This is a deeply convincing performance by the actor and he is a real pleasure to watch. Although Saskia only appears at the beginning of the film and then through a series of flashbacks, but the actress, Johanna ter Steege, still manages to give a memorable performance. At the beginning of the film, Rex leaves her alone in a tunnel without any lights and she is truly terrified. Her performance gave me goose bumps.
The identity of the kidnapper is revealed very early on in the film. Played by Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, it is a very intriguing performance, mainly because he looks so very ordinary. A family man, and a respected teacher, there is clearly a lot more to him than meets the eye - and it is exactly this that makes the film so chilling, because it reminds us that evil exists in many forms, not always the obvious one. Gwen Eckhaus also gives a good performance as Rex's new girlfriend. She is long-suffering, realising that Rex has still not got over Saskia's disappearance, but eventually, there are limits to what she is willing to put up with. She isn't on-screen for all that long, but it's long enough to make an impression.
Films that reveal the identity of the perpetrator early on in the story-telling process require very careful handling. Director George Sluizer does precisely this. Nothing is revealed without keeping the audience in suspense first, and even though the identity of the kidnapper is obvious about a third of the way into the film, information on how and why he did it, and what he did with Saskia is held back until almost at the end of the film. And just as we think it's all over, the director has another trick up his sleeve. Although in hindsight, I should have seen the ending coming, I didn't and it was all the more disturbing because of it.
The pacing of the film is excellent. Although it is far from being an action film, there is always something going on to keep the viewer glued to the screen. There is certainly very little violence involved, even though the story is far from being a pleasant one. We are very much left to imagine most of the horror that happens and we are shown that less really can be more when it comes to films of this genre. There is a rating of 12 in the UK, which is certainly more or less right from a visual point of view; however, the film is really quite chilling despite this and could provide sensitive children with nightmares, so parents may want to check it out before allowing them to watch.
The film is a French/Dutch collaboration and as such, is subtitled. I was expecting it to be in French, which, for the most part, it is, but there is some dialogue in Dutch and the beginning and occasionally throughout the film. The subtitles are excellent, which is just as well as this is very much a film based on dialogue. I love French and was able to understand a little of what was being said without reading the subtitles, but those who struggle with reading subtitles may find it tiring. Certainly, this is not a film during which you can have a lapse of concentration. There is a Hollywood version of the film starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland (also directed by Sluizer), which may be more suitable for haters of subtitles - although it is worth noting that it wasn't anywhere near as well received by the critics and has a quite different ending.
There are a few extras with the film, but as often happens with foreign language films, they are very nondescript, including the theatrical trailer, a filmography for the director and a picture gallery.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It has everything I look for in a thriller - suspense, surprise, characters I can identify with and excellent performances. The fact that it is not in English really is a minor disadvantage when compared with the brilliance of the film. Anyone who appreciates a well-directed film should enjoy this. I will probably watch the Hollywood re-make at some point, just for comparison purposes, but even ignoring the critics' opinion, I struggle to see how it could be better than this version. Highly recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £7.99. Be careful when buying that you choose the 1988 version (the original) and not the 1993 version (the re-make).
Running time: 107 minutes