The Vanishing (1988)

Last night I showed my parents Spoorloos (1988) or The Vanishing, a superb Dutch film that director George Sluizer later remade for Hollywood to much derision. If you’re going to see this movie, which you should, then you definitely see the original, no question. And, having said that, you should under no circumstances read anything about it beforehand (this piece exempted). Its ending is rightfully famous and the film works like a mountain climb; only at the summit do you get that unique perspective you’ve been working towards. Only then can you really see everything.

Simply put, the story concerns a Dutch couple – Saskia Wagter (Johanna Ter Steege) and Rex Hoffman (Gene Bervoets) – on a cycling trip in France. We get to know them, Saskia disappears, and Rex spends the rest of the film looking for the truth of what happened to her. It comes to dominate his life, and he is unable to maintain a ‘normal relationship’ because of it. At the same time, and this is revealed as the film is just starting so I don’t consider it a spoiler, we see Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), the man who is responsible for the disappearance, and learn a great deal of his motivations and backstory.

As the two men circle each other and get closer to meeting, the suspense becomes well nigh unbearable. I will leave it there, and just call attention to the acting, which really rises to the occasion. My mother said of the ending, “well, that was pretty horrible”. My father? “The message is: don’t vacation in France”. 😉

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