The Vanishing (1988)

The Vanishing

I was intrigued to watch "The Vanishing", a 1988 movie from Netherlands, after reading an article on the internet. I don't put the link here because I'm afraid the article is a bit spoiler-y (and I actually only read the first paragraph of it to avoid getting spoiled). The author of the article addressed one of the character in this movie as the most terrifying psychopath in movies he has ever seen. For me, it gave me a different look on sociopath which has never been done in any other movies. A very different presentation of a thriller with twist that terrifies me mostly because of its appropriateness and normal-ness.

 SYNOPSIS >  Based on a novel titled “A Golden Egg” by Tim Krabbé (who also wrote the movie’s screenplay), “The Vanishing” or originally titled “Spoorloos” centers on a story of two lovers from Netherlands, Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna ter Steege), who went into a trip to France by car. When they finally arrived at France, they stopped by a resting area to re-fill the gas. Saskia also went to the toilet in the area, while Rex waited for her in the car. But, Saskia never came back even till night. She just disappeared, perhaps was abducted by a stranger. Rex was so upset, and finally went back to his country. After three years left and still there’s no sign about Saskia, Rex began receiving letters from the abductor. The abductor is Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), a loving father of two daughter who was also a school teacher.

The Vanishing
Now I present to you... Mr. Raymond Lemorne.

 REVIEW >  "The Vanishing" is a calm river. You think that the river was calm enough for you to swim, but you never know that it slowly drifts you into a deadly rocky waterfall. At first, I guarantee that many viewers will not enjoy this movie because it goes very very plain. It's even a bit draggy in its first half. It contains no blood, not even gore. Not even specific theme of scoring or cinematography. It's perhaps way too smooth to be compared to other thriller-mystery. But again, "The Vanishing" leads you to enjoy a dramatic side of a mystery. If you prefer a thriller with many heart-jumping and adrenaline-booster scenes, "The Vanishing" may not be your cup of tea. It takes extra patience and focus to enter its world and finally be thrilled (and shocked) by it. You know, I watched it on the other night (because I had trouble sleeping) and it successfully blown me away. I stared to blank for like two minutes because I couldn't believe what I saw from the movie.

What is interesting from "The Vanishing", for me, is not its story, but its characters. Overall, "The Vanishing" is a character study instead of a movie that depends fully on the plot play. And what I referred as "its world" in the previous paragraph is not an unimaginable, larger-than-life world. It's our world, our real world. The fact that the mystery comes out from the normal life is what makes "The Vanishing" psychologically haunting. You won't be served with curiosity at the first place because the movie approaches you as if you are currently doing your normal daily activities. I mean, you and your spouse are in a vacation, then you stop by a resting area, and suddenly your spouse disappears with no trace. It's just like that. It's not you were to commit a crime, to kill a person, or what. It's just that normal. It is so much different from other thrillers that push you to enter their own mysterious world.

The Vanishing
Johanna ter Steege as Saskia. I like her cheerful character.

Again, the other normal-ness of "The Vanishing" is its character. I bet you will be introduced with a totally different sociopath character whom you haven't met in any other thrillers before. And, sorry, this is absolutely not a spoiler because from the beginning (even from the synopsis) you will be told that there is this character, named Raymond Lemorne, who is the abductor. No whodunit style like in detective story, because everything will be clearly told just from the beginning. That said, the most intriguing part of the story is on (1) how Lemorne did the abduction, and (2) why Lemorne did it. And your introduction to Raymond Lemorne is the start line of you to think out of the movie’s plainness. Once again, I don’t know if I was just way too exaggerating about it, but I’m sure that I wasn’t thrilled—I was haunted, instead. The fact that there is this kind of person—Raymond Lemorne kind of person—exists in our real world is haunting. Why? Because, again, he is just a normal person.

Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu was just incredibly successful playing the most humane sociopathic family guy. Donnadieu was perfect for raising my curiosity to seek the motive of all this mystery. In the other hand, Gene Bervoets also did a great job in playing a perfectly obsessive loving man who lost his girlfriend. Johanna ter Steege put a nice characterization to Saskia, since she looked very impulsive and cheerful. All the combination of the three main characterizations is the point that give sense to the whole plot. “The Vanishing” is a Netherlands movie, but more than half of the dialogues are French (that’s why when this movie was sent as the official submission of Netherlands for Best Foreign Language Film in Academy Award, the Academy rejected it). There’s also a Hollywood remake of this movie in 1993, titled similarly, and directed by similar director but played by different cast (and I don’t suggest you to watch it before you watch the 1988 version).

The Vanishing
Gene Bervoets as Rex. He's supposed to be in a trip with his girlfriend. And... she's gone.

 CONCLUSION >  Finally, it’s totally your job to try this movie out and prove if I was just blabbering. This is my verdict (and that’s why I wrote a review), but I need to warn you that, again, this is perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you wanna try to see a totally different sociopathic character—out of the normal description of a sociopath: a serial killer, a murderer, a brainy person, or else—you would be amused by “The Vanishing"

The Vanishing4 out of 5 stars

 ▲  A different outlook of a sociopath, a very good character study
 ▼  Draggy, not everyone likes its style

THE VANISHING | ORIGINAL TITLE Spoorloos COUNTRY Netherlands YEAR 1988 RATING Unrated RUNTIME 107 min GENRE Mystery, Thriller CAST Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege, Gwen Eckhaus, Bernadette Le Saché WRITER Tim Krabbé (novel), Tim Krabbé (screenplay), George Sluizer (adaptation) DIRECTOR George Sluizer MORE INFO

Akbar Saputra

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  1. Glad that you like it, too, Bar :) Yes, it is indeed really quiet and plain-looking film, but it's still haunting nonetheless. Other than the "normal" sociopath plot, I also like the theme of obsession from this film. This film taught you not to be very obsessive about something, cause if you do, you could end up alone in the dark (pun intended) lol

    1. Yep, there's a lot that viewers can absorb from this movie. And Raymond Lemorne might become one of the best sociopathic character I've ever seen :D