"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

  • PMC Fact.8 Signature Loudspeaker Review! (Take 2, Ep:11)
  • Which is Better? Elac Navis ARB-51 vs. Focal Shape 65 (Take 2, Ep:10)
  • Amphion for the Home, the Studio, and Billie Eilish - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • The NEW Hegel H95 Integrated Amplifier Review ! (Take 2, Ep:9)
  • Estelon: Loudspeaker Excellence and Originality from Estonia - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Zero-Distortion Amplification: Halcro Out of Hiatus - SoundStage! Talks (August 2020)
  • Best Active Speaker? Elac Navis ARB-51 Speaker Review (Take 2, Ep:8)
  • Vivid Audio's Inventive and Spectacular S12 Loudspeaker - SoundStage! InSight (August 2020)
  • Qobuz Hi-Res Traction and Younger Listeners, with David Solomon - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier Review (Take 2, Ep:7)
  • Schiit Audio Bifrost 2 DAC Review (Take 2, Ep:6)
  • Vinshine Audio: Kinki Studio, Magico, and More in Singapore - SoundStage! Talks (July 2020)
  • 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)
  • Totem Acoustic Skylight Speaker Review! Affordable Speakers with a Big Sound (Take 2, Ep:2)
  • Activities at Hi-Fi Super-Retailer Goodwin's High End - SoundStage! Talks (June 2020)
  • 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)