The Vanishing (George Sluizer, 1988)

Even though I knew all about this film’s famous ending well, well ahead of time, the 100 or so minute lead-up to it was no less powerful and engaging. The bliss between the couple Rex and Saskia is so seemingly flawless and imperturbable that you think it HAS to end in tragedy, which of course it does, but that doesn’t make it any less believable, as their chemistry is high, making the sense of panic as Saskia goes missing in a crowded rest stop and Rex becomes more and more worried that much more palpable and tense. As the film soon cuts to three years later and Rex is no less obsessed not with finding Saskia, but simply what happened to Saskia, this would have been a decent-enough thriller examining one man’s obsession with finding the truth behind a tragedy…but then it defies all expectations of a traditional thriller. Soon we meet the outwardly charming and affable chemistry teacher Raymond – the man who’s responsible for Saskia’s disappearance, and no, that isn’t a spoiler – and suddenly this thriller is anything but a whodunnit. Raymond’s story is even more engaging than Rex’s, as he never delves into full-on eats-his-own-feces madness, but the vague signs of sociopathy are clearly there, and his subtle weirdness absolutely gets under your skin, from his quiet obsession with his resting heartrate to his just-as-obsessive fixation on getting his kidnapping procedure just right, to the point that he does a test-run on his unknowing daughter. “The Vanishing’s” form of comic relief, depicting Raymond’s increasingly humorous, failed attempts at kidnappings, is both morbid and bold. And the disjointed chronological structure, going from the time of the kidnapping to three years later to Raymond’s preparations well before the deed to Raymond’s childhood at drops of a pin, leave little doubt as to who the perpetrator is, but keeps you on your toes and force you to pay attention (even if a late flashback shows just how poor Saskia’s judgment is, to the point where I was taken out of the otherwise natural unfurling of events). Finally, when the inevitable Rex-Raymond showdown occurs, it’s far from the thriller-esque taking-revenge showdown we’ve been programmed to expect. Despite a good amount of philosophical, wordy mumbo-jumbo out of Raymond’s mouth that you’d unfortunately expect from a typically deranged villain, this little game between the two men show that Raymond, the sociopathically fascinated ringmaster, and Rex, the wronged rat in the maze, aren’t so far apart in their obsessions. Two sides of the coin of derangement, the only difference being that one of them gets more of our sympathy – and the gap isn’t as wide as you’d think.

8.5/10

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1 comment so far

  1. derp on

    i like


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