The Vanishing is a very 80s movie with a very 80s score. It is a pretty good thriller/horror, especially because of its unorthodox methodology. Much of the film is spent with detailed views of a sociopath’s life; the man who kidnaps the main character’s girlfriend and drives Rex into obsessive search mode for the next three years. There ensues a game of cat and mouse that concludes with dire consequences. The film is engrossing from a psychological standpoint, mainly for the fact that the serial killer is the most sympathetic character and the protagonist is a fairly large jackass. This juxtaposition also takes the place usually occupied by suspense, something the film largely does without. I guess one could argue that wondering what happens to the victims is suspenseful, but I honestly didn’t care so much about how they died as much as I wondered how Rex would destroy his life next.
What I found most interesting about the film were its production values. The characters don’t have makeup crews and perfect clothing, the cars are similar to what anyone would drive. It is almost like a Dogme 95 film in these respects. Mostly because this was a European co-production and they didn’t have tons of budget to blow on mise-en-scene. Instead, the quality of the film comes with the cinematography. Nothing particularly flashy, but sometimes the decision whether to make a rack focus or not has powerful effects. An example of this occurs when the killer sends Rex a postcard telling him to show up at a certain café to meet. Rex arrives with his new girlfriend and as they conversate, the killer sits at a table behind them, very out of focus, but obviously him. Rex and his skirt take off and the camera lingers on the killer, but remains out of focus. This is basically the cinematic equivalent of the unfulfilled expectations that the narrative provides. The Vanishing is a well put-together film, but not a life-changing experience. I will say that if Hollywood put as much care into its screenplays as went into this one, many of its releases would improve dramatically.