Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Vanishing/Spoorloos (Sluizer. 1988)

"The best plans can be wiped out at any moment by what we call fate. I confess, that saddens me."


Some films only work as thrillers because they keep the viewer on the edge of their seat until the very end. Some thrillers use dramatic music and tunnel the camera through spiraling hallways or crowded spaces to create a feeling of discomfort. While George Sluizer's The Vanishing is guilty of these tropes, it uses them with a surprisingly [still] fresh style. This reconstruction of the thriller (which as a genre dates all the way back to the silent film era) is what makes this film so special. Oh, that and the ending.*

The Vanishing is based on a novel called "The Golden Egg" that was written by the same man who crafted the screenplay for the film, Tim Krabbe. It tells the story of two Dutch lovers who are in the midst of a cycling holiday in France. The couple (played by Gene Bervoets and Johanna Ter Steege) stop at a perfectly innocent gas station to stretch their legs, play Frisbee, and wax romantic. The wife goes into the station to buy some drinks for the duo....and is never seen again.

The husband waits for an amount of time, comforted by the image of his wife's red hair in the background of an otherwise bootless photo that he took while waiting for her to return. She must be coming back, right? She was just here....

A few years later, this disappearance has become an obsession for the husband. He has given up the hope of finding her alive, but he also cannot shake the guilt, fear, and feeling of responsibility that came with the tragedy. He is not going to let this go - even after taking a girlfriend who does her best to sympathize with his unique situation. He simply must know what happened. Wouldn't you?

The audience has an idea of what happened throughout the entire film. I write that with an intense desire to not spoil anything - which that detail does not do in any way. The antagonist is met early in the film. He is a man that struggles with the idea of free will. So much so that as a child he once forced himself to jump from a high balcony, severely injuring himself in the process, just to prove to himself that he could do it. It is known by the audience that this man did something with the wife. But what?*

The ending of the film unfolds in a chilling and inescapable fashion. Sluizer's direction assists the plot by properly building fear and suspicion in the audience. While the ending is bottomless and unsettling on its own*, the tension that builds throughout The Vanishing is the real highlight. The audience, much like the husband, want answers. Both get what they want*.

The Vanishing: A

*NOTE* - DON'T LOOK UP THE ENDING. I MEAN IT!