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 (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.
  • Affably Evil: Raymond is impossibly charming and polite.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Raymond is never caught by the police and murders Rex in the same manner he murdered Saskia.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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).
  • For the Evulz: The villain is an emotional blank slate. The greatest high of his life was when he saved his daughter from drowning. Now he wants to see if he can get a similar high from doing something really evil.
    • In the original film, the villain is a science teacher who wants to kill and get away with it because... he just wants to do something different in his life.
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: See The Bad Guy Wins
  • Not His Sled: The remake changes the ending. This is the main reason it's considered to be inferior to the original.
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Reverse Whodunnit: Subverted. The audience knows who the killer is from the outset, and Rex eventually learns who he is and how he killed Rex's girlfriend - 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
  • 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).
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Raymond is extremely ordinary looking.
  • The Sociopath: Raymond.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Jeff Bridges in the remake.