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SPOORLOOS / THE VANISHING (1988, SERIES)

Even today, this mysterious and quite shocking thriller enjoys a cult status in the Netherlands and throughout Europe, and the strongest asset of George Sluizer’s most famous film is its unusual narrative structure, which further enhances the suspense and shock of the entire story. “Spoorloss” or “Disappearing” therefore begins almost idyllically. Saskia (Johanna ter Stege was nominated for the best European supporting actress) and Rex (Gene Bervoets) are a young couple who went on vacation to France from the Netherlands. Already during the trip, Saskia experiences a nightmare in which she floats through empty space in a golden egg (The Golden Egg is also the name of the novel Tim Krabbe wrote a novel based on which served as a movie template).

That nightmare seems to be a foreshadowing of some evil that will happen, because soon Saskia will simply disappear at the gas station. She’ll head to the store to buy drinks and never come back, and then we go three years into the future when a desperate Rex is still trying to find out what happened to the love of his life. He is convinced that someone kidnapped her, and since a lot of time has already passed, he is aware that Saskia is no longer alive, but he obsessively tries to find out what happened to her and follows every little clue. And then the first shock of “The Vanishing” begins, as the perspective of the story shifts from Rex to the kidnapper – a seemingly tame family man and professor who is actually seen for the first time with his family on a property somewhere in France near the gas station where Saskia disappeared.

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Then we realize what really happened to Saskia and that it was Raymond (the terrifyingly creepy and sleazy Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) who kidnapped her. Only then does the story become completely disturbing as we realize that Raymond is a sociopath, but one of those invisible ones, a man that no one would ever suspect to be a disturbed patient and both. When he realizes that Rex is still obsessively searching for Saskia, Raymond will start contacting him anonymously claiming to have information about what happened. At the same time, we will get an insight into Raymond’s life before the kidnapping and what and how happened at the gas station and how he decided on Saskia, and what we will see is deeply disturbing, shocking and terrifying, but all this is nothing compared to a final that literally freezes the blood in the veins.

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It’s a film about obsession and the lowest, sickest drives, which almost works like a mosaic, and the viewer even before Rex assembles the horror puzzle of the incident at the gas station. Although “Spoorloos” is nominally a thriller, due to its unusual and original narration, it functions significantly differently from most representatives of this genre. Regardless of the fact that we learn relatively early what happened to Saskia, the intensity rests in the psychological aspect and the attempt to understand the functioning of the two main characters. A completely lost Rex who, even after three years, does not give up his obsessive search and simply cannot move on with his life until he finds out what happened to her and is ready to risk and even lose everything in order to get the answer. And a sick maniac who enjoys Rex’s suffering and the knowledge that he can do whatever he wants with him.

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