Blu-ray Review – The Vanishing – Criterion Collection

The Vanishing

Director: George Sluizer
Screenplay: George Sluizer and Tim Krabbe
Minutes: 106
Year: 1988
Score: 8.00
Release: Criterion Collection

It is incredibly rare for a film to affect my dreams. When they do it typically takes a dozen or so views before my brain defaults my dreamscape to another world, I have been to Middle Earth, and in the Star Wars universe, but I have watched those films more times than I want to count. The Vanishing, with just one watch, gave me a nightmare. I do not wish this upon you. But, you should certainly watch the film.

From Criterion.com:

A young man embarks on an obsessive search for the girlfriend who mysteriously disappeared while the couple were taking a sunny vacation trip, and his three-year investigation draws the attention of her abductor, a mild-mannered professor with a clinically diabolical mind. An unorthodox love story and a truly unsettling thriller, Dutch filmmaker George Sluizer’s The Vanishing unfolds with meticulous intensity, leading to an unforgettable finale that has unnerved audiences around the world.

In my dream I knew that something bad was going to happen to my wife that she would be killed or kidnapped but for whatever reason I had no choice but to leave her alone. She is fine, it was just a dream.

Original Poster

Spinning up the disc you already know, from the title and the poster, what is going to happen as well as to whom it will happen. Within 10 minutes you know who is going to commit the action and how it will happen. Even with all of this information you will want little more than the why, and that is the magic in this film. This film is so well crafted that everything, every shot, is essential to the story, but it is also not rushed, nor did it feel forced.

As you can imagine the film is difficult to discuss, having to tiptoe around that “why”. So what makes this film so good, then, what can I say about it? The film is a master class in editing and constructing a final cut. There are no stones left unturned. The editors, Lin Friedman and director George Sluizer, afford you an opportunity to develop a humanist relationship with the villain while making the hero into a loose cannon. There is a minor slip in the editing when you are originally introduced to the film’s timeline, but you quickly understand their intent, and it is smooth from there to the end. Smooth in understanding mind you, not in the emotional wreck you are hastily becoming.

All of the performances felt real with characters acting they way that you think they should. Gene Bervoets, Rex, the hero, inches forward in his life while not being able to let go, he urges for any information on the “why,” eventually convincing Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu’s, Raymond, to explain everything. As a viewer you desire the information as much as Rex does, but you still wish he could be smart about it.

Unfortunately this is one of the lighter releases from Criterion. The two interviews add to the experience, and I don’t know what else I would want but it hardly stacks up next to many of their other releases. But, the new 4k (as of 2014) scan looks incredible.

You can also watch a remake, also directed by George Sluizer, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as much as I like the cast, I will always proselytize watching the original over the remake, even if it is the same director. The real guts are in the first attempt, even though there are arguments to the contrary (see: Invasion of the Body Snatchers) I think a film lover would be better off with the originals.

Special Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with director George Sluizer
  • New interview with actor Johanna ter Steege
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Scott Foundas

Director: 10 – Cinematography: 8 – Edit: 10 – Parity: 2 – Main performance: 10 – Else performance: 5 – Score: 7 – Sound: 10 – Story: 10 – Script: 10 – Effects: 6 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10

UPDATE: I dreamed about this movie again last night and realized something else very interesting about the coins. Take that for what you will.

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