Newest Review: ... to have a happy ending. Available for £5.81 on Amazon with English subtitles, the DVD includes a gallery of stills, directors filmogra... more
Whatever happened to Saskia Wagter?
The Vanishing aka Spoorloos (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Vanishing aka Spoorloos (DVD)
Advantages: Utterly compelling, great performances
Disadvantages: None for me
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
Summary: An excellent film, despite its age