Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Vanishing" (Language - French/Dutch) (1988) - Movie Classics

“The Vanishing” is a cruel film and not in the sadistic grotesque visual, these days the movies opt for. It is cruel to its audience in giving a detailed methodical effort that took place behind the abduction of a Dutch girl in this film. But it frightens the simplicity and the person’s obsession to find out something of a limitation to his capability. When the reasoning behind that is explained, he is indeed a man of his own. Until the final moments, we are not scared of him, rather like him in several instances with his family. This is a nice man and he does the unthinkable.

A young man Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and his girl friend Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) are on a road trip into France. Rex and Saskia fight before she vanishes in a gas station. Before that, their vehicle gets dried up in a tunnel with blackness and deadly fast cars passing along. Saskia warned Rex to fill up the gas but he was too egoistic of listening to her. Now she erupts and then him in an unusual reaction leaves her alone in the car. We are petrified as Saskia. That might be the stupidest and dangerous thing to inflict on a girl who not long ago explained her nightmare of being stuck in a golden egg and horrified by the loneliness. Director George Sluizer teases with that scene.

The story is structured differently on the arrival to that point to the gas station of the couple and the intriguing lethal man Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu). Raymond a chemistry professor lives in a secluded house covered by dense woods with his family. A lovely wife (Bernadette Le Sache) and two daughters. They are the perfect happy family and Raymond is caring adorable father. He is been though making several trips to a new house he is building and perfecting. Is Saskia there?

The assumptions and the grasps the director wants his audience to make becomes deviating but more so about the uncertainty, the repeating word Raymond explains later in the film. The film begins with the couple on how they came to the ill fated gas station and then follows the procedure Raymond takes on to get his victim in to the car. He tests the amount of time a person will be unconscious for a calculated amount of chloroform. He puts himself to that test. Then he rehearses how he will invite someone to his car and then carefully conceal the last minute mixture of chloroform to his handkerchief. He practices on his pulse to be cool on the adrenaline when the victim is so close to be trapped. He is meticulous in his technics and the worst is we are wondered by this exercise.

George Sluizer intents for his audience to feel a little sick unaware to even themselves on appreciating these hardships Raymond takes on to get his innocent victims. Then we are put into something else, the curiosity of Rex. The man being right there and even would have caught a glimpse of Raymond on that day. It has been three years and despite giving up hope on Saskia’s survival, he wants to know what happened. That haunts him. He has made peace with himself on not punishing the person responsible for this but the unknown information of Saskia’s fate drives him mad and to a definite insanity. Raymond invites Rex through an anonymous post card for third time to the cafe near his place saying he will let know of what happened. Rex comes by and sits in the cafe while Raymond watches him as a stranger. This time Rex has brought his new girl friend Lieneke (Gwen Eckhaus). She is nearing the threshold to play second fiddle to the disappeared girl friend.

“The Vanishing” then takes the ultimate surprise of Raymond offering the explanation to Rex. Their journey becomes more curious and so much more suspenseful and wonderment that leads to a devious tragedy. A clear vision on the presentation and a frightening cool act by Raymond redefines this trend about the hunt for the truth. The truth here is not one sided. As much as Rex wants to know the truth, Raymond’s quest is the same or at least was the intention when he abducted Saskia.

We get closer and closer to the end and Rex is surprisingly patient. He has waited enough for this moment and do not want to spoil it. The punishment is futile and the only freeing up of his troubled soul is to get a closure on his girl’s fate. We feel the agony, pain and insurmountable frustration Rex goes through and we weep for him. That has been achieved in several movies but this is something else, we are deeply bothered by this psychological cruelty of Raymond. The problem is, we have a teeny tiny idea of why and we understand it. As much unreasonable and psychopathic it is, we understand and that is troublesome. It smears the psychological terror in our hearts and we guilt ourselves for the limitless doomed and devious mind we have.

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