Thursday, December 16, 2010

#218 Spoorloos [The Vanishing] (1988)


Director: George Sluizer

Cast: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege, Gwen Eckhaus, Bernadette Le Saché, Tania Latarget

What is worse than death? For Rex Hofman, it is living a life shrouded in the torturous mystery of his girlfriend's disappearance. While vacationing together, Rex and Saskia stop at a gas station in France. When Saskia never returns to the car, Rex launches a full investigation of her disappearance. Years later when the case goes cold and the police have long-since shut the file, Rex remains plagued by the mystery and his sorrow.

Having taken over his life completely, the campaign to find Saskia expends all of his time, money, and energies. When he finally comes face to face with her abductor, Raymond, he is met with an unexpected proposition. Raymond–a normal man by any other definition: a professor, husband, father– offers Rex the opportunity to find out how Saskia died, but only by experiencing it himself. Otherwise, he will never know.

Thus, the film reaches the ultimate psychological climax. And while I refuse to spoil the ending, I will say it is one of the most disturbing things I've seen in a long, long time.

While this film by no means follows the standard "horror" genre formula, it supplies enough suspense and fright to indeed go beyond a mere 'crime film' into the classification of horror/suspense. A shocking and frightening foreign film, whose later remake I suggest could not possibly compare. Unique in that it follows the mind/life of the criminal in more detail than that of the victims, we get a fascinating view of Raymond practicing for his crime (without ever really seeing the actual full thing). And in what we can only assume are Saskia's last moments alive, we are plagued with the unfortunate experience of watching her vitality and innocence as she interacts with who will soon facilitate her unfair and inhumane demise.

Worth seeing, but come prepared. This one is not going to leave you with a good feeling in your stomach.

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