The Vanishing

The Vanishing

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The agony of not knowing can be worse than the pain of loss. When Rex's girlfriend, Saskia (Johanna ter Steege), disappears on their holiday in France, it makes no sense. Rex (Gene Bervoets) is shocked by the intensity of his feelings and the horror of what might have happened.

Three years later and still no sight, nor sign, of her, his obsession is stronger than ever. He has another girlfriend now, who finds this third person in their relationship too difficult to live with. Saskia may not be there, but the mystery of her leaving is as damaging as another lover.

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The story is not constructed along traditional lines. As a whydidit, the character of the kidnapper is just as important and Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) is a strange choice, because he appears perfectly normal, a mathematics teacher, with a dutiful wife and two adoring daughters.

It is not stated that he is Saskia'a abductor. This is assumed, as he is seen rehearsing the deed with other women. Obviously the victim doesn't matter, although her sex does. Can this meticulous, intelligent, repressed man be a rapist? Or a torturer?

Raymond sends Rex postcards incognito, arranging meetings. Rex lives in Amsterdam, but travels to these rendezvous anyway, desperate for news. Raymond watches, but never speaks. It is a game. When Rex's curiosity is uncontrollable, he will make his introduction.

The undercurrents are chilling. Saskia's fate becomes less vital than the motive. Raymond has the build of a stevedore and the graven face of a Pentecostal preacher. Reading his mind is like deciphering Sanskrit.

The film's 12 certificate is a decoy. Co-writer/director George Sluizer manipulates the imagination in a way that is deeply disturbing. The mood of controlled psychotic unease has a hypnotic effect and the ending is guaranteed to freeze your blood.

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2006
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The Vanishing packshot
The disappearance of Rex's girlfriend at a service station in France leads to a chilling denouement.
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Director: George Sluizer

Writer: Tim Krabbé, George Sluizer, based on the novel, The Golden Egg, by Tim Krabbe

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

Year: 1988

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Netherlands/France

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