For Reel

The Vanishing (1988)
July 29, 2016, 6:12 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: George Sluzier
4 Stars
The VanishingAmong everything that The Vanishing is, it is a meticulously crafted thriller about the grieving process. In one scene, a woman reassures a man that he will get over the loss of a loved one in about half the total amount of time that they were together. It’s not quite enough for Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets), who is so driven by curiosity that it almost seems as if he’s bypassed grief—he’s obsessed and haunted, not wallowing in self-pity. Our mind’s need to process events as narratives is often set against the unpredictability of the world, driven by chance encounters and simple misfortunes. That Rex’s narrative regarding what happened to his girlfriend (Johanna ter Steege) is forever incomplete is the catalyst for a consuming madness—one gets the sense that he might be able to cope and move on if he simply knew why. The Vanishing is a horrifying suspense film both because of its calculated, uncommonly analytical villain (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), and because it is a story that punishes this very basic human curiosity. It’s a film about a search for answers, even if getting closer to those answers means quite knowingly tangling oneself in a spider’s web. And yet, if the audience of the film not only knows most of what happened on that fateful afternoon, but has some idea what might happen in the end (which proves to be even beyond one’s imagination), director George Sluzier keeps the levels of suspense high. If he’s not a showy visual stylist, his obsession with the seemingly mundane (there are documentary-like stretches where Donnadieu practices his crime) brings a disconcerting level of realism to the material. Unlike a thriller by Hitchcock, there is very little pleasure in The Vanishing—it is a film of consuming dread, where the sense that bad things await is approached in the very first scene and carried through to the end.

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