"The Vanishing" (1988)

October 2014

The VanishingA Deadly Cat-and-Mouse Game Generates Intense Suspense

The Criterion Collection 133
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
**

Modern audiences have come to equate suspense and horror movies with blood. But when you think about it, the great ones have little of that. Thus it is with the original European version of The Vanishing. The movie builds incredible suspense and brings you to the edge of your seat, but without guns or blood.

A young Dutch couple, Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege), are on vacation in France when they run out of gasoline. Rex leaves Saskia alone to trek for petrol and they argue about it. All made up and kissing and cooing again, they are at a large service-station plaza when Saskia goes to fetch drinks for them. She never returns.

Rex spends three years obsessively searching for his missing girlfriend, and he starts to connect the dots so well that her abductor, Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), notices him. Raymond connects with Rex, outing himself as Saskia's abductor. Further, he says that if Rex follows directions, he will learn exactly how Saskia disappeared and what happened to her. Rex is so myopically focused on learning the truth that he goes along with Raymond, and they play cat and mouse for the rest of the film while we see, in clever flashbacks, what happened.

The Vanishing

Director George Sluizer has not made many successful films in the 26 years since The Vanishing, but this is such a good film that he'll be remembered for it alone. He tried a Hollywood remake in 1993, but it was a disaster, perhaps only interesting for being one of Sandra Bullock's early roles.

Criterion has made it possible for viewers to see the best representation of the film. The video transfer has bright and chipper colors by day, and sinister and dark ones by night (but with excellent shadow detail). The audio track does well by the dialogue and the minimalist music of Henny Vrienten (identified in Criterion's booklet for The Vanishing as Henry Vrienten). There are not many extras, though there are short video interviews with Sluizer and ter Steege, and a printed article by Variety's film critic, Scott Foundas.

It's not really a Halloween movie, but The Vanishing is coming at that time when audiences seem to relish terror. You'll get plenty of that if you follow the disappearance of Saskia, along with Rex and Raymond. Don't forget to drink the drugged coffee.

Be sure to watch for: Chapter 8, "Preparation," finds Raymond rehearsing his moves for the kidnapping. It's humorous in a macabre way, and Donnadieu acts it brilliantly.

. . . Rad Bennett
radb@soundstagenetwork.com

More SoundStage! Videos

  • Focal Shape 65 Active Speaker is a Winner for Both Audiophiles and Studios (Take 2, Ep:5)
  • Audio Research's 50th Anniversary Products, Celebration, and Future - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Get Closer to Your Music with the HEDD Type 07 Active Speaker -- Literally. (Take 2, Ep:4) #AMTfi
  • Back to the
  • Details on the Bowers & Wilkins 700-Series Signature Speakers - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • Activities at Hi-Fi Super-Retailer Goodwin's High End - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • Totem Acoustic Skylight Speaker Review! Affordable Speakers with a Big Sound (Take 2, Ep:2)
  • The Long-Term Investment in a Bryston Amplifier - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • PMC and the Flagship Fenestria Loudspeaker - 2019 SoundStage! Product of the Year Winner (June 2020)
  • Hegel H120 Integrated Amplifier Review. Living With It for the Past 3 Months! (Take 2, Ep:1)
  • The Power, Purpose, and Appeal of Bluesound's Powernode 2i Amplifier - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • Buying Speakers for a Teenager - SoundStage! Talks (May 2020)
  • Buying Active, Powered, or Passive Speakers for the Studio - SoundStage! Encore (June 2020)
  • Focal's Speaker Driver-Cone Materials - SoundStage! Talks (May 2020)
  • Dutch & Dutch 8c Active Loudspeaker in Detail - SoundStage! InSight (June 2020)
  • Gryphon's Flagship CD Player and Yamaha's New Turntable in Australia - SoundStage! Talks (May 2020)
  • Gryphon's New Class-A Essence Amplifiers - SoundStage! Talks (May 2020)
  • Vivid Audio's Laurence Dickie, Designer of the B&W Nautilus - SoundStage! Icons (June 2020)
  • Rockport Speakers Now Come in Colors - SoundStage! Talks (May 2020)
  • Deep Inside Crystal Cable - SoundStage! InSight (May 2020)
  • High-Res and Multichannel for Music Playback - SoundStage! Encore (May 2020)
  • KEF's Dr. Jack Oclee-Brown on Speaker Design - SoundStage! Icons (May 2020)
  • Intro to Dutch & Dutch and the 8c Active Loudspeaker - SoundStage! InSight (April 2020)