English Title: The Vanishing
Original Title: Spoorloos
Country: Netherlands, France
Language: Dutch, French, English
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Director: George Sluizer
Music: Henny Vrienten
Cinematography: Toni Kuhn
Johanna ter Steege
Bernadette Le Saché
My first George Sluizer’s film, a bleak but tantalising examination of psychological sociopath and the obsession of finding out the truth beneath. The plot-line is pretty straightforward, Rex (Bervoets) and Saskia (ted Steege) are a young Dutch couple on a vacation to France, en route, they stop in a busy gas station and Saskia is disappeared, three years later, the abductor Raymond Lemorne (Donnadieu) contacts Rex, the latter has been bedevilled by the incident ever since, Raymond asks Rex if he is willing to face the same treatment which Saskia had experienced so as to conclude his pathological obsession, his answer is astonishingly perverse and the finale is uncompromisingly gut-wrenching.
The film starts with a foreboding tunnel accident, where Rex waywardly leaves Saskia alone in the pitch-black, there is a cryptic smile on his face when he is walking out of the tunnel to fetch gasoline, viewers may think – what is he thinking? what a complete jerk! Not to mention it is completely his fault for running out of gas in the first place! As one might expect Saskia will be mysteriously gone when he returns, it doesn’t happen, but the scar is clearly lacerated, however they mend fences pretty soon, as Rex apologises and explains that it is the moment when he leaves her there that he realises how much he loves her. This perhaps justifies the smile, but it is deeply dark.
They arrive the bustling gas station and Sluizer immediately introduces the perpetrator Raymond in parallel, but the narrative is still homing in on the lovebirds, after some casual flirting, a romantic ceremony to bury coins under one of the trees and a promise that she will never be abandoned by him, Saskia goes to the convince store and never comes back. After that, it is Rex’s futile and desperate attempt to find her, until the morning after.
Then, the film steers into Raymond’s life, he is a chemistry teacher and has a perfect family, a gentle wife with two daughters admire him. But his dark side is innate, it is his passion to be a sociopath, his rehearsal of the abduction, detailedly recording his heart rates, it is utterly radical existentialism for him to implement his wrongdoings, he can be the hero to rescue a drowning girl, at the same time, he can ruthlessly murder a totally strange woman, there is no logical motivation, whatsoever, which is the most bone-chilling fact the film dares to divulge.
Meanwhile, Rex is entrapped in the mystery, his persistence pushes his new girlfriend Lieneke (Eckhaus) away and his option between letting-go and embracing the worst outcome is the harbinger of his fate. When Raymond suddenly appears in front of him, apart from the initial rage, he is deadly under his clutches, up until the final decision, cogently enhanced by Henny Vrienten’s thrilling score and the final blow is when finding the coins he and Saskia buried, he cannot run away from his oath, his suicidal act is simultaneously beyond credibility and thoroughly conceivable, it is the only way to follow his incubus to the hilt.
The three leading performances are all awards-worthy, Donnadieu is formidably sinister and Bervoets singles out his desperation with awesome commitment, Johanna ter Steege, as the innocent victim, demonstrates how easily one can approach the doom by a whimsy of credulity.
Arguably one of the darkest ending in the film history, THE VANISHING is the sort which one dare not to revisit since it leaves indelible imprint on one’s memory with poignantly awe-and-shock side effect, it is also a cautionary tale to warn us never get into a stranger’s car, no matter how innocuous or benevolent he or she looks.