[Movie] The Vanishing (1988)

  • Original Title: Spoorloos (Dutch – traceless)
  • Directed by: George Sluizer
  • Cast: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege
  • Based on the novel “The Golden Egg” (1984) by Tim Krabbé

Sometimes I imagine she’s alive. Somewhere far away. She’s very happy. And then, I have to make a choice. Either I let her go on living and never know, or I let her die and find out what happened. So… I let her die.

Rex from the movie

The Vanishing” is a story of a young Dutch couple, Rex and Saskia, and the incident of kidnapping of Saskia. It is quite a different type of mystery or thriller movie. Rather than traditional clue-based who-done-it settings, the film reveals the move of the kidnapper from the first. It is amazing the film does not lose momentum and suspense after revealing the kidnapper’s identity.

Since you know who did the kidnapping, you are invited to more psychological puzzles of the kidnapper, Raymond, and the boyfriend of the kidnapped girl, Rex. The portrait of Raymond, the kidnapper, seems stereotyped and generalized such as the troubles in youth and the struggles with sub-conscience. But when Raymond’s sadistic obsession wraps with Rex’s another type of obsession – nostalgic or self-punishing -, the plot fits together into the final unavoidable consequences.

The movie is very terrifying to watch. Yes, the plot is predictable and might be lame. But the banality of evil and the everyday reality surrounded by psychological madness can give viewers haunting and unsettling emotional scars.

There are many pieces of symbolic instruments in the film – insects of the opening shot, the dreams of Saskia and Rex, and two coins buried under the tree -. Viewers are invited to interpret freely with the symbols. When Rex is awakened buried alive inside a coffin, the dark space and the small light from a cigarette lighter is the point of no return. You know who did the crime, but the film offers a lot of mysteries to solve.

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