The Vanishing (1988 film)
Original Dutch film poster
|Directed by||George Sluizer|
|Based on||The Golden Egg
by Tim Krabbé
|Music by||Hennie Vrienten|
|Distributed by||Argos Films|
The Vanishing (Dutch: Spoorloos, literally "Traceless" or "Without a Trace") is a Dutch–French film adaptation of the novella The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbé, released on 27 October 1988. Directed by George Sluizer and starring Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, the film is about the disappearance of a young Dutch woman and her lover's obsessive search for her, which leads him into increasingly dangerous territory. In France the film was released under the title L'homme qui voulait savoir (The Man Who Wanted to Know).
A Dutch couple, Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege), are on holiday in France. While driving, Saskia shares a recurring dream with Rex, in which she is drifting through space in a "golden egg". In the latest instance of the dream, Saskia explains that another golden egg, containing another person, appears, and the collision of the two eggs would signify the end of something.
The couple's car runs out of petrol and they stop at a petrol station to refuel and rest. A man, later identified as Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), covertly observes them. Following a promise from Rex to never abandon Saskia, and the romantic burying of two coins at the base of a tree, Saskia enters the petrol station to purchase drinks and does not return, causing Rex to frantically search for her.
A series of flashbacks introduces Raymond. A respectable family man with a wife and two daughters, Raymond has secretly been plotting the abduction of a woman. He buys an isolated house, experimenting with the use of chloroform, and rehearsing scenarios in which he attempts to entice a woman into his car. Raymond's initial attempts at an actual abduction are not successful. He eventually decides to pose as an injured motorist in need of assistance as a strategy to lure women into his car.
Three years after Saskia's disappearance, Rex is still searching for her. Over that time, he has received a postcard five times, directing him to meet the kidnapper at a cafe in Nimes. Each time, the kidnapper refused to show. Unknown to Rex, the cafe is directly across the square from Raymond's apartment. Rex's new girlfriend, Lieneke (Gwen Eckhaus), reluctantly helps him search for Saskia, but becomes increasingly dissatisfied with a relationship that she refers to as a ménage à trois. One day, Rex has a dream similar to Saskia's that he is trapped in a golden egg. Shortly after, Lieneke, unable to endure his continued obsession with Saskia, sadly leaves him. Rex then appears on television, stating that he only wishes to know the truth about what happened to Saskia.
Raymond, fascinated by Rex's fanatical compulsion to know what happened to Saskia, confronts Rex and admits to kidnapping her. He tells Rex that he will reveal what happened to her if Rex comes with him. As they drive, Raymond describes himself as a sociopath who got the idea of committing a kidnapping after rescuing a young girl from drowning. Heralded as a hero by his daughter, Raymond became obsessed with discovering whether he could commit an act of great evil after committing one of great good. He describes how he kidnapped Saskia from the rest stop by posing as a traveling salesman and enticed her into his car after she asked about buying a gift for Rex.
Raymond takes Rex to the rest stop where he abducted Saskia. On the way, it is revealed that Raymond is claustrophobic. He puts off Rex's threats of police action by explaining that there is no evidence connecting him to the crime. He then pours Rex a cup of drugged coffee. Rex is told that the only way to learn the truth about what happened to Saskia is to experience it himself. As Raymond waits in the car, Rex rages for several minutes, unsure of what to do. After digging up the coins he and Saskia had buried, he frantically drinks the coffee. When he awakens, he discovers that he has been buried alive. Above ground, Raymond relaxes at his country home while a newspaper headline displays the strange coincidence of Rex's disappearance, showing pictures of both him and Saskia side-by-side, each encased in an oval shape resembling an egg.
- Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as Raymond Lemorne (his surname means 'gloomy'), a French chemistry professor, who was diagnosed as a sociopath in his teens. To prove to himself that he is capable of "the ultimate evil", he decides to kidnap and murder a young woman – and eventually chooses Saskia.
- Gene Bervoets as Rex Hofman, a Dutch traveler on a holiday with his girlfriend Saskia Wagter in France. Three years after Saskia vanishes at a service station, Rex is still searching for her, obsessed with finding out what happened to her.
- Johanna ter Steege as Saskia Wagter, the Dutch girlfriend of Rex Hofman who travels with him through France until she goes missing at the service station.
- Gwen Eckhaus as Lieneke, whom Rex begins dating three years after Saskia's disappearance.
- Bernadette Le Saché as Simone Lemorne, Raymond's wife. Like the rest of her family, she is completely unaware of Raymond's crime.
- Tania Latarjet as Denise Lemorne, elder daughter of Simone and Raymond
- Lucille Glenn as Gabrielle Lemorne, younger daughter of Simone and Raymond
|This section requires expansion. (August 2008)|
The Vanishing was co-written by director George Sluizer and Tim Krabbé, the author of the original novel, The Golden Egg. The film accurately portrays the narrative within the novel, apart from two factors: firstly, the film's narrative is more complicated than the novel. Extensive use of flashbacks and gradually revealed personality traits of the central characters lend depth to the film.; the second major difference involves the direct interaction between the characters Rex Hofman and Raymond Lemorne, who spend more time together following their meeting.
Release and reception
The Vanishing was released in the Netherlands on 27 October 1988. It was released to acclaim and the producers George Sluizer and Anne Lordon received the Golden Calf for the Best Full Length-feature film at the Netherlands Film Festival in 1988. The Vanishing was the Dutch submission for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988. The film was disqualified because the Academy determined that there was too much French dialog in the film to meet the requirements. AMPAS deemed that the film was unsuitable to represent the Netherlands. The Dutch declined to send another film, leaving them unrepresented for the first time since 1972. The film was released in France on December 20, 1989 under the title L'Homme Qui Voulait Savoir (English: The Man Who Wanted to Know). Johanna ter Steege won a European Film Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1988.
The Vanishing was praised on international release. It was released in the United States in 1991 and made the list of Top Foreign films of 1991 by the National Board of Review. Desson Howe of The Washington Post praised the film's avoidance of cliches, noting that it is "refreshingly free of manipulative scenes involving running bath water, jagged-edge cutlery and bunnies in the saucepan". Howe also made note of the unusual move of revealing the kidnapper immediately and spending significant time learning about him. Roger Ebert wrote a similar approval of this in the Chicago Sun Times, stating, "One of the most intriguing things about The Vanishing is the film's unusual structure, which builds suspense even while it seems to be telling us almost everything we want to know." Stanley Kubrick thought The Vanishing was the most terrifying film he had seen—even more frightening than The Shining, leading Kubrick to call Sluizer to discuss editing. Of the negative remarks, Ken Hanke of Mountain Xpress referred to the film as "Okay, but wildly overrated and predictable." The Vanishing holds a very high critical rating at the film review database Rotten Tomatoes, with 100% approval rating from critics with an average rating of 8.5/10. Empire magazine placed the film at number 67 in their list of "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.
The first North American copies of the film were released on Laserdisc by Image Entertainment on 3 November 1997. It was later released on VHS by Fox Lorber on 11 November 1997 followed by a DVD version released on 13 May 1998. The latest version of the film on DVD was released by The Criterion Collection on 18 September 2001. The Criterion Collection version contains the original French trailer and an essay on the film by film critic Kim Newman as supplemental material.
Criterion released a new version of the film on DVD and Blu-ray on 28 October 2014.
In 2013, the film was adapted to radio by Oliver Emanuel and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra, as part of the station's Saturday Drama slot. Directed by Kirsty Williams, it starred Samuel West, Melody Grove and Ruth Gemmell in the lead roles.
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