"A disturbing movie that will take you into realms usually reserved for Poe and Lovecraft, "The Vanishing," directed by George Sluizer, is a dark tale that takes you into the twisted mind of a man named Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), with implications that are truly frightening. While on vacation, a young couple, Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege), stop at a crowded rest area. While he fills the car with gas, she goes into the store for some drinks. And she never comes back. And, lest the scenario seem too improbable or implausible, Sluizer proceeds to take you back through the days preceding the mysterious disappearance; and once you meet Raymond, you begin to understand what happened, and how. And when you finally know, it's as terrifying as anything you could possibly imagine. On the surface, Raymond appears to be a rather "normal" individual; he's married, with two children, and teaches science. He and his wife, Simone (Bernadette Le Sache), have recently purchased a country home which they are gradually restoring, and spend some time there with their children whenever they can. But hidden beneath Raymond's reserved and respected exterior is a sociopath capable of actions so heinous it defies comprehension. Leading up to the day of the vanishing, the film alternates between scenes of Rex and Saskia vacationing, and Raymond, as he methodically plans and calculates his cold-blooded crime. And it's chilling, watching him prepare and fine-tune each step so matter-of-factly, as if he were staking out a new garden or planning a picnic with the family. It's unsettling, watching Rex and Saskia going about their business, blissfully unaware of the terror that awaits them. What puts the real bite into the impact of this film is the way it's presented; this is no boogeyman-in-the-closet or "slasher" type horror film-- it goes way beyond that and takes you into a very real world of very real horror. Early on, of course, you know that Raymond is responsible for Saskia's disappearance. But don't have a clue as to what he's done with her or where she is-- dead or alive-- until the very end of the film. The second half of the film concentrates on Hofman's obsessive quest to find out what happened to Saskia. Three years have elapsed, and he still doesn't have a clue (and neither does the audience at this point). Then something happens, something is revealed, and you follow along with Rex as he pursues the single clue he's been given after all this time. And as you watch him desperately trying to uncover the truth, you begin to hope with all your heart that he does. Because after a point it becomes excruciatingly clear that if he fails, you'll never know what happened, either. Ter Steege lends an earthy vitality to the role of Saskia, with a performance that is entirely convincing and very real. Bervoets does a good job as well, credibly expressing the myriad emotional levels that Rex experiences. And Donnadieu, as Raymond, is absolutely disconcerting, exhibiting an off-handed nonchalance that evokes the image of a lion patiently stalking his prey. The supporting cast includes Gwen Eckhaus (Lieneke), Tania Latarjet (Denise), Lucille Glenn (Gabrielle), David Bayle (Raymond at 16), Roger Souza (Manager) and Caroline Appere (Cashier). A sobering film that kind of sneaks up on you, "The Vanishing" does what most horror movies never really do-- it makes your skin crawl. The ending is rather startling in it's simplicity; it may even leave you nonplused for awhile. But once you've had some time to think about it and assimilate what actually happened, be prepared for a sleepless night or two. This is one that just isn't going to leave you alone."
Horrifying film that still gives me nightmares....
Dianne Foster | USA | 06/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Perhaps I would have been better off if I had never seen this film. I don't usually watch horror films. I was scared out of my wits by "Psycho" when it came out in theater's (it's hard for younger people who grew up with Freddie Kruger to imagine it, but there was a time when you didn't see blood all over the screen.) This film does't show any blood and I don't remember much violence, however, it's a psychologically terrifying movie like "Diabolique" so if you have a weak heart don't watch it. "The Vanishing" has a fine cast and was shot somewhere in the Netherlands--I believe the cast is Dutch. Johanna ter Steage(?), the fine actress who played Theo's wife in "Vincent" and Frau Beethoven in "Immortal Beloved" plays a young woman who becomes the victim of a mentally unhinged stalker. The man's derangement is demonstated by his lifelong willingness to "experience" things like deliberately falling off a balcony so he can see what it feels like to break an arm. Johanna's boyfriend cannot overcome the loss of his girlfriend. Her memory ruins opportunities to form a realationship with a new person. The crime drives the boyfriend to acquire the attributes of the man who 'stole' his girlfriend. First he becomes obsessed about establishing a link with a particular person, just as the stalker became obsessed about finding a woman he could kidnap. Second he stalks the kidnapper in a variety of ways, just as the kidnapper used a variety of ways to lure a woman into his car. Third, he says he is willing to 'experience' what the kidnapper demands so that he can discover what happened to his girlfriend. In the end, I was left "unhinged.""
NYYanksFan | Long Island, NY | 06/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a perfect world, a viewer planning on seeing this film for the first time would not be aware of its by-now famous ending. It is a testament to everyone involved in the making of this movie, that knowing the ending does not spoil, in the least, that first viewing experience. Truly, this is one film in which the 100 minute buildup is as satisfying and quietly thrilling as the utterly horrifying ending, itself.
What a buildup it is. Alfred Hitchcock, who turned American Everyman James Stewart into a fascinating (and altogether believable) character study in obsession in Vertigo, his masterpiece, would have praised this film to the heavens. Like Vertigo, The Vanishing is a quiet, deliberate, slow moving affair, in which we first become gradually drawn into Rex's building guilt and torment over the whereabouts of his missing girlfriend, Saskia, who literally disappeared under his nose. During his 3 year quest to find her, we begin to learn more and more about the quiet professor who abducted Saskia. When the 2 men ultimately meet, Rex's first impulse is to kill the man who has turned his life upside down; but he can't, because he simply has to know exactly what this man did to Saskia - there's that "obsession" word again. Rex knows this man has killed his girlfriend, and, while fully aware he is sealing his own fate, as well, nonetheless agrees to the killer's terms at the film's conclusion: if you want to finally learn what happened to Saskia, the girl who vanished under your watch, you have to experience exactly what she did. And boy does he ever.
Although not all American remakes of European films are botched-up disasters (case in point: Insomnia, the fascinating Swedish suspense film, was made into a very credible character study/police procedural starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams), please avoid the American remake of The Vanishing at all costs. Can you imagine a remake of Vertigo, where Kim Novak, falling to her death from the bell tower at the film's conclusion, is saved at the last second by a fortuitously placed life net? Well, there in a nutshell is the ending of the American version of The Vanishing, and for the life of me, I can't believe the same director made both films.
Another praiseworthy release from Criterion, and very highly recommended."
A Masterful Depiction Of Pure Evil
El Lagarto | Sandown, NH | 05/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Vanishing is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen in my life, I had nightmares for a week after I watched it. The reason it succeeds so amazingly well is that the terror takes place in the viewer's mind; there is virtually no violence on screen at all. Film violence is so common that it has no impact, (kindness, by contrast, would be stunning, if not unsettling, to encounter). Decapitated cab drivers leave us cold not because we're insensitive people, but because film producers would rather rely on cheap exploitation than make movies about people worth caring about. In The Vanishing, George Sluizer has done just that, and the result is a film that reels you in ever so gently until it has a death grip on your neck.
The story is amazingly spare and elegant. A Dutch couple is on holiday, the wife is abducted. In one of the film's many lovely bits of irony, the abduction is unceremonious, taking place in a dreadful highway rest stop. We get the sense that frequently pure evil presents itself not dramatically but with a sort of lazy ordinariness. The husband devotes years to finding her, ultimately making a public campaign of his quest. Using flashbacks, we are gradually filled in on the story, we meet the abductor. He too is hardly dramatic, a very bourgeois family man, a chemistry professor, a man who dotes on his daughters. Only when he recounts a childhood incident where he leaped from a high ledge simply because it was the kind of thing one is forbidden to do are we at all welcomed into his secret world, where the pleasure of doing the unthinkable commingles with the thrill of absolute domination and the knowledge that one is invoking terror.
By the time the abductor contacts the husband, we have formed a powerful empathetic bond with him. His grief and loss are both moving and real and we share the desperate need to learn his wife's fate. Because of this, we are willing to overlook the almost total insanity of turning control over to the abductor, which is what he does. The husband's plan succeeds, he gets the answer, the torment of uncertainty ends. He pays dearly for this peace of mind, the end of this movie chilled me to the bone.
Whatever you do, DO NOT mistake this movie for the American version featuring Jeff Bridges. In one of the strangest cases of the American film system ruining a foreign movie, Sluizer actually directed this one too. One can only imagine that the studios told him what they wanted and he took the payday. The Hollywood draft of The Vanishing is as horrible as the original is spellbinding. Criterion has done it again. A masterpiece worthy of a place in your permanent collection."
A Study in Psychological Terror
Dark Trippers | 03/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This, the original The Vanishing (please, please, pass over the dumbed down 1993 US version by same director) is without doubt one of the most quietly chilling films of all time. Based on the novel The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbe, this beautifully constructed little thriller has a glossily calm, ultimately misleading, veneer around its bleak icy heart. The casting is astounding, especially Donnadieu as the mild mannered, outwardly benign, existential sociopath Lemorne (Jeff Bridges merely mugged his way through his later role). Here we have true, dastardly intellect of an equal to that of Dr.Hannibal Lecter.The story itself is a study in efficiency. Two young lovers whilst touring France stop off at a gas station. Saskia goes into the store for some refreshments, Rex waits for her outside. Saskia never returns. Over the next three years Rex becomes obsessed by the disappearance of his lover. What happened to Saskia? The fractured time structure preserves this central premise right up until the film's final few frames (while the remake chose to unfold the story in strict chronology, thus removing all that movie's sense of mystery and tension). The answer that Rex seeks is one of those powerful cinema moments that are impossible to forget.Utterly bloodless yet profoundly disturbing. This DVD has little to offer in the region of extras(Come on Criterion, where are you when we need you?; is the Full Screen version (which no true film buff should accept); has irremovable subtitles burned into the film-stock, and the picture quality is decidedly grainy with more than its fair share of detectable artifacts. That said, I still urge you to buy this superb movie."