Review by Michael Jacobson
Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege, Gwen Eckhaus
Director: George Sluizer
Audio: Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: October 28, 2014
need to know.”
the inexplicable disappearance of a girlfriend at a rest stop with an obsessed
boyfriend’s three-year hunt to find out what exactly happened on that day, and
you might have the makings of a traditional Hitchcock picture or a standard film
noir. But The Vanishing, a
French-Dutch production from director George Sluizer, is anything but
traditional or standard.
structure of the film is odd, yet intriguing in its originality.
We spend time at the beginning of the movie with said couple, Rex (Bervoets)
and Saskia (ter Steege), two Hollanders on vacation in France.
They play and bicker like any other couple, and all seems normal up until
the moment she vanishes without a trace.
picture switches focus to the man responsible, Raymond (Donnadieu), and we spend
time getting to know him. The film,
in other words, is not a typical mystery. We know who is responsible long before Rex does.
The question is not who, but the burning one of what…what happened
to Saskia on that ill-fated day?
is a singularly unique movie villain in that as an actor, Donnadieu doesn’t
feel the need to inject the character with psychological tics or other unnerving
physical traits. His eyes are calm,
not wild. His manner is quiet and
thoughtful. He seems to be a good
husband and father to his family.
a villain, he’s cool and calculating, literally. He scribbles mathematical notes on everything from the drugs
he wants to use on his victims, to time formulas and driving distances.
He practices. He’s well prepared. Several
attempts at kidnapping go awry; Saskia is his first real success.
three years go by, it is not Raymond who is unsettled, obsessive or unable to
function…it is Rex. His
relationship with a new love interest, Lieneke (Eckhaus), is falling apart
because he can’t get Saskia out of his mind.
He knows the chances of her being alive after all this time are
practically none, but he still needs to find out what happened.
He still puts up posters everywhere, and appears on TV, begging for
Raymond enters his life, confessing he is behind the disappearance.
What follows is the film’s final half hour: intriguing, startling, and
unforgettable. Though Rex could go
to the cops with Raymond, doing so would mean never knowing what happened to
Saskia. Raymond, on the other hand,
promises to reveal everything…if Rex will agree to experience first hand what
Saskia did. Chilling.
released in 1988, The Vanishing didn’t enjoy a theatrical release in
the United States until 1991. Two
years later, Sluizer would make one of the biggest mistakes of his career:
agreeing to remake his own movie for Hollywood.
The resulting picture, with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland, was
well-acted, but with no teeth or substance.
original is an experience that can’t be repeated or duplicated…to follow the
formula again would be a waste of time. In
fact, I’m not entirely sure how well the movie would stand up to multiple
viewings…lacking the traditional structure of a mystery, one is left without
the experience of seeing something unfold again, but rather, waiting for the
that first viewing is certainly an unforgettable experience.
The Vanishing takes something typical and makes it atypical, letting
the audience know aspects of the story before the main character is even aware
of them, letting them stay perfectly in tune with the developments until it
finally goes in directions no one could anticipate.
It creates suspense with the information it gives instead of the details
delivers a near perfect anamorphic transfer for this film.
In fact, the majority of the scenes in the film rank amongst the very
best I’ve seen on disc this year. Colors
are bright and plentiful, and detail so sharp and accurate that even trees in
groves have distinct leaves and subtle differences in shades of green.
Flesh tones are very natural, and the film is unmarred by aging effects.
Darker scenes are about half and half; some of them render very well,
maintaining detail and integrity, and others become a little more hazy and
murky, with some noticeable grain. Ironically,
in darker scenes, blacks are never quite deep or true, but in lighter ones, they
are much more solidly rendered. A
few very minor complaints aside, this is an excellent looking disc for the
majority of the presentation, and should please fans greatly.
is a decent single-channel mono offering…dialogue is in Dutch and French, so
its clarity wasn’t really an issue. The
track is clean, with some satisfying louder moments from time to time, so there
are no real complaints.
There are new interviews with director George Sluizer and
actor Johanna ter Steege, plus the original trailer.
It’s this simple: if you see a copy of The Vanishing on your video store’s shelf, and you recognize the people acting in it, that’s not the one you want. Opt instead for the original, made five years earlier by the same director outside of Hollywood’s influence, and now available on a terrific looking Blu-ray from Criterion. This is the one that will unnerve you so quietly you won’t even really see it happening.