Plot: What’s it about?
Rex (Gene Bervoets) and his girlfriend Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) are enjoying some time on holiday, soaking in the sun and having a fantastic time. It seems like nothing can go wrong for them, but of course, they have no idea what the future holds for them. At the same time they’re living it up and such, Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) is watching them and making some plans, but not the kind of plans you want to see unfold. He intends to kidnap Saskia and then continue his ideas, but he is not some twisted psycho, he is a husband, a father, and even a school teacher. So he is not the usual kidnapper or even worse kind of criminal, but he has issues and in this case, he plans to make sure Saskia disappears. And this just what happens when Saskia and Rex pass through a crowded station, leaving Rex all alone. As time passes and no signs of Saskia turn up, Rex finds himself in sheer chaos, unable to go on with his life. His search nabs the attention of Raymond, who contacts him and offers to reveal the truth about Saskia’s fate…
This is one of those movies that simply won’t fit neatly into one genre, as it encompasses elements from several of them. It has traits of a thriller, a dash of horror, and some doses of drama, but not enough of any of them to rest on that label. I would perhaps call it a realistic, real world horror picture, but that description fails to do much. But while you might not be able to tack this one into a genre, there is one title that it wears well, so we can just call it a great, very memorable motion picture. A dark, disturbing movie, The Vanishing pulls no punches and panders to no cliches, this is just one of those movies where it all clicks into place. I hold this film with some of the best of all time and certainly the top releases of its decade, it is just that damn good. As with a lot of popular import films, The Vanishing was remade with an American cast, but failed to fill the shoes of the original film. I simply cannot recommend this movie enough, so if you’re at all interested, don’t hesitate to pick this disc up, it is well worth the cash.
This movie touches on the subject of real life horror, but never stoops to stereotypes or boogeyman type approaches, which make it that much scarier, I think. George Sluizer serves this approach very well as screenwriter and director, making sure to keep it based in reality and in the end, that is what makes The Vanishing such a powerful picture. Had Sluizer resorted to using conventional horror or thriller elements, it would have cheapened the impact, but as it stands, he makes us take a good hard look at real life’s evil, not some masked madman with a chainsaw or the like. In addition to directing the American remake of The Vanishing, Sluizer also helmed such films as Crimetime, Twice A Woman, Stamping Ground, and The Stone Raft. The cast here includes Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu (Druids, The Return of Martin Guerre), Gene Bervoets (Black Coffee, The Bloody Olive), and Johanna ter Steege (Paradise Road, The Phantom Heart).
Video: How does it look?
For this Blu-ray release, The Vanishing has been given a new 4K re-master and the result is, well, stunning. The film is presented in a 1.66:1 AVC HD transfer and the image looks very sharp, but never too much so. The print is clean from start to finish showcasing a very natural color palette. I saw no problems with contrast either, as black levels are on the mark and never falter at all. Granted, the previous version of this film (on Criterion DVD) didn’t look “bad” per se, but this new Blu-ray version simply blows that other one out of the water.
Audio: How does it sound?
What seems untouched is the original Dutch & French soundtrack is preserved here via a mono option, which sounds good, in the grand scheme. As this is a more recent film (1988), the source materials seem in good shape and as a result, no hiss or distortion is evident. This film relies upon dialogue for the audio drive, but the sound effects and music still sound very good here. The vocals are clean, sharp, and always at the proper volume balance, never any issues there. I found a surprising amount of range from this mono track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Those that have the original Criterion DVD might be tempted to ante up for this Blu-ray release. In addition to a much-improved video presentation, there are a few new supplements exclusive to this edition.
- George Sluizer – One of the two new supplements to this Criterion Blu-ray is an interview with Director and Screenwriter George Sluizer. Running around twenty minutes, we get a brief history of the film, Sluizer’s acquisition of the novel by Tim Krabbe and some of the not so friendly negotiations that took place to bring this to the screen.
- Johanna ter Steege – The star of the film reflects on how she got the part of Saskia as well as what she brought to the table of the film. There’s not quite as much content here as with the Sluzier piece, but it’s still nice to have.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Illustrated Booklet – As is the case with all Criterion titles, there’s an illustrated booklet with an essay by film critic Scott Foundas.