The Vanishing (originally titled Spoorloos) is a French mystery/thriller directed by George Sluizer. The original 1988 film (which was followed by a rather depressing American remake in 1993) came to The Criterion Collection as Spine #133 on Blu-Ray in late 2014. This is the only Sluzier film to make it as part of the Collection.
A young couple is traveling to their designated vacation spot when Saskia convinces Rex to veer off to a local spot. After a pit stop at a local gas station Saskia goes missing. Years after hearing nothing, Rex begins to receive odd letters.
This is a truly villainous film. Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu deserves to be in every conversation. His performance as Raymond Lemorene creates one of the most sinister villains to ever grace the screen. His blunt, passive attitude atones for his violent character by making him out to be an everyday guy. The manipulative and meandering persona comes to the forefront of the film when he uses his family to test the neighbor’s ability to hear screams. His calculated approach is sedate and his true insanity shows in a joyful, sadistic expression upon his face. This guy is fucking crazy. But, not all credit is due to Donnadieu. His performance is assisted by silence and natural sound. The ambiance created by Sluizer is haunting to the point of breakdown, and the score is used sparingly to assist in deepening the dismal side of Rex’s circumstance and Raymond’s insanity.
Sluzier presents The Vanishing in nonlinear fashion, granting himself the ability to explore both Rex and Raymond in-depth. Twining these two characters through imagery by how their lives were ultimately coinciding without previous intention. We often see Raymond just out of frame or vice versa, hinting towards their ultimate confrontation. With this, Sluzier highlights his ability to control depth in his pictures. Raymond is always slightly off frame and at a distance, sometimes blurred out, presenting an idea seen often in many horror films today (think Halloween or Friday the 13th ).
With his filming ability on showcase, Sluzier chose to show Raymond’s humane side often, shoving the idea that evil is hidden into our faces. He controls the life of Rex, and gets off on the idea of his suffering as he ultimately explains his immorality and how circumstance played a role in his actions. Sluzier struck gold with The Vanishing, and it’s nothing short of an achievement. “The eternal uncertainty, Mr Hofman?” is a line that will stick for a very long time.
This is ideal when it comes to supplements on a Criterion release, a damn awesome interview with director George Sluzier, who sadly passed away a month after. This very insightful interview is headlined by Sluzier speaking of how much Stanley Kubrick admired his film. Nothing much needs said outside of that, as it speaks volumes on the level Sluzier reached here. There is also a new interview with actress Johanna ter Steege, an essay by Scott Foundas, and the 4k restoration/uncompressed monaural soundtrack.
The Vanishing is a pragmatically disturbing trip that highlights natural sound as its foremost tool, as its alternative score delivers an eerie ambiance. This accompanied by outstanding and unforeseen performances delivers a lasting strike that should be considered amongst the best thrillers. The Vanishing’s Criterion release is definitely worthy of purchase.
Criterion Grade: A
Film Grade: A