Film / The Vanishing

Dutch suspense-thriller directed and co-written by George Sluizer, made in 1988, adapted from the novella The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbé (who also co-wrote the screenplay). It concerns a man named Rex (Gene Bervoets) looking for his missing girlfriend, Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege). He eventually meets Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), the man responsible for her disappearance, who refuses to tell him what happened to her. What is Rex willing to do to find out?

Remade in 1993 (by the same director) with Kiefer Sutherland, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, and Nancy Travis. There was also a BBC radio play version in 2011.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Saskia's disappearance, it takes place at an absolutely unexpected moment for Rex, just as most kidnappings do.
  • Affably Evil: Raymond is impossibly charming and polite and seems to be a good father and husband. That's also why he decides to reveal what happened to Saskia to Rex, he feels sympathy for the man (even though he also doesn't miss a chance at killing again). He even makes sandwiches to Rex during their trip to France.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Raymond is never caught by the police and murders Rex in the same manner he murdered Saskia and it's implied that he will keep killing.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Raymond. He seems so mild for a kidnapper.
  • Black Comedy: Flashes of it here and there. The scene in which Raymond clumsily practises knocking women out with chloroform is very darkly humourous indeed.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: In the 1993 remake of the film, the villain character is named Barney, played by Jeff Bridges. His justification for his actions in the remake are that he would feel unworthy of his daughter's love after saving a little girl's life unless he also committed an equal act of evil. It is this same reason that gives him the idea to do something horrible to get a kick.
  • Buried Alive: The fate of Saskia and Rex.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted in the remake. Rita tries to rescue Jeff and brings along the case containing his revolver. When it comes time to use it, she discovers the case is empty because she'd earlier bitched at Jeff for owning a gun and he got rid of it to keep her happy.
  • Completely Different Title: The original Dutch title is Spoorloos (roughly "Traceless"). It was released in English-speaking countries as The Vanishing and in France as L'homme qui voulait savoir (The Man Who Wanted to Know).
  • Downer Ending: Only in the original. Rex finally discovers what happened to Saskia: she had been buried alive, and he is going to suffer the same fate. And so, Raymond walks away scott-free, and not only that but as he had takes a liking to his new hobby, it's implied he'll keep doing it.
  • Dying Dream: The original novella ends with Rex hallucinating that he and Saskia are reunited as he dies.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Raymond jokes to his wife that he might be the sole french man that can says that he only known one woman in his life.
  • Evil Is Petty: There can't be no pettier reason to become a Serial Killer than seeing if it's possible to experience the same high from killing people than the one felt from saving the life of a kid.
  • Fatal Flaw: Rex's obsessive need to know what happened to Saskia, even at the expense of seeking justice for her, ultimately results in him bankrupting himself, destroying his relationship with Lieneke and allowing Raymond to kill him.
  • Foreign Remake: With an American cast and setting (although the director of the original returned).
  • Foreshadowing: Ten minutes before The Reveal, it is states that Raymond is exempted from wearing seat belts due to being claustrophobic. The most clevers would remembered that Raymond said that he inflicted to Saskia the worst that he could have imagined. Once it is revealed that he buried Saskia alive, the scene makes a lot more sense.
  • For the Evulz: The villain is an emotional blank slate. The greatest high of his life was when he saved a girl from drowning. Now he wants to see if he can get a similar high from doing something really evil.
  • The Hero Dies: and in a very unpleasant way.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Saskia.
  • Insane Troll Logic: See Blue and Orange Morality.
  • Internal Reveal: The audience knows who the killer is almost immediately, but Rex does not find out until the beginning of the third act.
  • Laughing Mad: Rex, when he discovered that the fate of Sarah was to be buried alive and he is now going to die the same way.
  • Karma Houdini: See The Bad Guy Wins
  • Meaningful Name: Raymond's surname "Lemorne" could be translated to "the gloomy one", which references his states of emptiness.
  • Not His Sled: The remake changes the ending. This is the main reason it's considered to be inferior to the original.
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Rex first assumes that Raymond raped Saskia as it is the worst he could have imagined but Raymond refutes this.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: Subverted. The audience knows who the killer is from the outset, and Rex eventually learns who he is and how he killed Saskia - but the killer gets away with it anyway.
  • Revised Ending: In the remake.
  • Rule of Symbolism: In the original book, named "Het Gouden Ei" (transl. "The Golden Egg"), the audience is explained that the lead character was having nightmares about being trapped inside a Golden Egg while his significant other is trapped inside another. They could only be released from their eggs if they crashed into each other. The catch? Their eggs are flying through outer space, and not on a direct collision course, so most likely they would never be free. Considering how the book and the original movie end, the symbolism of this dream is quite fitting. The remake not so much.
  • The Remake
  • Serial Killer: What Raymond is eventually budding to become after killing Rex, it's implied he's going to do it again.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Rex..
  • Screw Destiny: The villain claims that when he was a teenager he deliberately jumped off the balcony of his apartment just for the sake of doing this. He claims it resulted in him breaking his leg and two fingers (the subtitles say that he "lost" two fingers, but the actor playing Raymond has all ten. It's possible he was simply messing with Rex's head, or it may be a simple mistake in translation, or he could have been speaking about his toes.
    • In the end, that's also what Rex does in order to find out about Saskia.
  • The Sociopath: Raymond is likely a high-functionning type, and he is even aware of it. He is in state of emotional emptiness, and the only times he felt really alive, was 1) When he jumped off of a balcony and broke both of his legs at the age of 16, 2) When he saved a little girl from drowing when he was 42, and 3) When he buried Saskia and Rex alive.
    Raymond: A small anomaly of my personality, imperceptible for the entourage. You can find me in medical encyclopedia, as a "sociopath" in new editions.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Raymond is extremely ordinary looking.
  • Together in Death: Rex's Dying Dream in the novella.
  • Villain Protagonist: A lot of time is dedicated to the elaboration and planification of Raymond's plan.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Jeff Bridges in the remake.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Raymond's wife and daughter assumes that his strange behavior is due to him having a mistress. If only they knew...