The Vanishing

A part of this view­ing list: Criterion Collection Spine #133: George Sluizer’s The Vanishing.

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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.

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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.

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