Spoorloos (AKA: The Vanishing) is directed by George Sluizer and Sluizer co-adapts the screenplay with Tim Krabbe from Krabbe’s own novella The Golden Egg. It stars Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege and Gwen Eckhaius. Music is by Hennie Vrienten and cinematography by Toni Kuhn.
It’s a lesson in creeping unease, a film firmly interested in character development as it unfurls a tale of obsession whilst casting a clinical observation of a sociopath at work. Story is basic on plot terms, young lovers are separated during a vacation when the girl mysteriously disappears. So begins her boyfriend’s obsessive search that spans years, then things get intriguing as the person responsible for girls disappearance starts sending the boyfriend messages, giving him the run around, until the question is asked. Just how far are you prepared to go to find out what happened?
The script is brutally clever, we follow two parallel lives, that of emotionally torn boyfriend Rex Hoffman (Bervoets), and that of sociopath Raymond Lemorne (Donnadieu), the latter of which is a family man moving freely amongst his loved ones whilst simultaneously practising his perfect crime. Lemorne is a very different type of sociopath to what normally fills out horror movies, he’s sometimes a figure of fun, even inept, but he beats a black heart and as Rex Hoffman is going to find out, he’s very methodical in his belief that he was destined to enact a perfect crime.
Sluizer builds the picture very slowly, only turning the screw an inch at a time. He lets Spoorloos chill our blood not by jolt shocks or stalk and slash histrionics, but by the very fact that Raymond does what he does just because he can. While the disintegration of Rex’s emotional being is terrifying in its realism, what gnaws away at him also gnaws away the audience, so when the coup de grace comes at film’s end, the impact is like being run over by a tank. Great direction is matched by great acting from the principal players, to seal the deal for Spoorloos being a truly excellent thriller that’s well worth seeking out by those after a bit more thought in their thriller viewings. 8.5/10
George Sluizer's 1988 film Spoorloos (The Vanishing) is the story of a murder and the search for the killer, but it's not a whodunit for the audience at any rate. Just after Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) disappears at a French rest stop while vacationing with her boyfriend Rex (Gene Bervoets), the audience sees the long chronicle of local chemistry teacher Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) preparing to carry out a murder of some random woman. As the film rises towards a climax, we follow Rex's obsessive hunt not for justice and retribution, but for simple understanding of what happened to his love. It is that unquenchable curiosity to know the very details, to indirectly share Saskia's fate that drives Rex forward on a dark quest. Spoorloos is widely known for its twist ending, and I'd recommend avoiding spoilers before you watch the film. I myself was spoiled, but still, Rex's doom was played very different than I imagined.
Rex is something of a one-dimensional figure who exists purely to carry out the philosophical conundrum that is the plot. Lemorne is the truly detailed character, even if I find some of his motivations hard to swallow. Donnadieu plays him convincingly – I really came to despise this character. It is interesting that his initial attempts to abduct a victim, though played buffoonishly to a rather comic soundtrack, don't lighten the mood (as in, say, the black comedy of Edward Gorey), but rather make us squirm even more.
Though the twist ending makes this film memorable, and Donnadieu and, to a lesser extent (for she has little screen time) Steege's acting is fine, I wouldn't rank Spoorloos so highly. The cinematography is plain, and there's little re-watch value. Still, this is worth seeing once.