A young Dutch couple on holiday in France stop at a motorway service station, where the girl inexplicably vanishes. Desperately her boyfriend searches for her. Meanwhile, we're introduced to a dull, respectable French paterfamilias who, we gradually come to realise, is the man responsible for the girl's disappearance. But we don't know why, nor--yet more tantalisingly--what he's done with her. Neither does the boyfriend, for whom her disappearance becomes an obsession (the film's French title is L'Homme qui voulait savoir--"The Man Who Wanted to Know".) Finally, horribly, he finds out.
Operating quietly and cunningly, Sluizer keeps us constantly on edge. There's the unconventional plot structure, dropping us unexpectedly into what turns out to be an extended flashback; the twitchy disorientation of the hero, adrift in an alien language and culture (a shrewd use of the film's joint French/Dutch parentage); and above all the chillingly downbeat performance of Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as the abductor, a living demonstration of the banality of evil.
The Vanishing is one of those rare movies that insinuates itself under the skin of the mind and cannot be dislodged. Ill-advisedly, Sluizer let himself be tempted to Hollywood to direct an English-language remake that jettisoned all the subtlety of the original and tacked on an inane happy ending. Shun that version; this is the one to go for.
On the DVD: The Vanishing comes to DVD with these slim pickings: the theatrical trailer, a filmography for Sluizer and a gallery of stills. But the transfer, digitally remastered in the original widescreen ratio, looks good and the sound matches it. --Philip Kemp
* Original theatrical trailer
* Director s filmography
* Picture gallery
The original is dark and pessimistic, the characters are believeable, portrayed with conviction, so it's easy to get involved. There's little violence, but the atmosphere does it all. The director and lead convey the passing of time and the increasing isolation, desperation and determination of the husband with considerable eloquence.
I first saw this film several years ago and it has lodged itself in my memory, so I think that once seen it's not easily forgotten. For all the right reasons!
This product's forum
Active discussions in related forums
Search Customer Discussions