SPOORLOOS - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(The Vanishing)

Netherlands-France, 1988

Director: George Sluizer

Production: Golden Egg Film, Ingrid Productions, for MGS Film; colour, 35mm; running time: 106 minutes.

Producers: Anne Lordon and George Sluizer; screenplay: Tim Krabbé, based on his novel The Golden Egg; photography: Toni Kuhn; editor: George Sluizer and Lin Friedman; assistant directors: Natasa Hanusova and Anouk Sluizer; art directors: Santiago Isidro Pin and Cor Spijk; music: Henny Vrienten; sound editor: Stefan Kamp; sound recording: Piotr Van Dijk.

Cast: Gene Bervoets ( Rex Hofman ); Johanna Ter Steege ( Saskia ); Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu ( Raymond Lemorne ); Tania Latarjet ( Denise ); Lucille Glen ( Gabrielle ).



Variety (New York), 19 October 1988.

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Pernod, P., "Savoir et pouvoir," in Positif (Paris), February 1990.

Newman, Kim, Monthly Film Bulletin (London), June 1990.

Desjardins, D., "L'homme qui voulait savoir," in Séquences (Paris), September 1990.

Maslin, J., "Review/Film: How Evil Can One Person Be?" in New York Times , vol. 140, C8, 25 January 1991.

Rafferty, T., "Full Stop," in New Yorker , vol. 66, 28 January 1991.

Dargis, M., "National Obsessions," in Village Voice (New York), vol. 36, 29 January 1991.

Denby, D., "Fatal Distraction," in New York Magazine , vol. 24, 4 February 1991.

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Simon, J., "Horror, Domestic and Imported," in National Review , vol. 43, 29 April 1991.

Anderson, P., Films in Review (New York), May-June 1991.

Avins, Mimi, "From a Dutch Director: A Scary Twice-Told Tale," in The New York Times , vol. 142, section 2, H20, 14 February 1993.

Jones, A., in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), vol. 29, no. 11, 1998.

* * *

Spoorloos represents one of the most extraordinary realisations of the psychological thriller captured on film. The heartbreaking, yet horrific ending of the film leaves the spectator in no doubt of their own vulnerability in the battle of human nature against a society in which random acts of madness occur.

On many levels comparisons can be drawn by the obsessive nature of both protagonists. The obsessive curiosity of the boyfriend, Rex (Gene Bervoets), to reveal what has happened to his girlfriend, Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege), who was abducted from a service station on route to a holiday destination, is mirrored by the abductor's, Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), own curiosity of human nature's darker side, and its ability to manifest itself through evil deeds. The abductor's approach and rationale are entirely scientific, thus allowing him to distance himself emotionally from the actual deed. This approach allows him the luxury of maintaining a seemingly happy marriage and family life, unlike the boyfriend, whose very ability to have insight and uncalculated emotions causes his ultimate demise.

The continuation of Raymond's exploration of his dark side, without any thought of redemption or forgiveness, amplifies the depth of his pathology. Over a period of years Rex's search for Saskia is brought to public attention by his poster and TV campaign through which he hopes to gain knowledge of her whereabouts. Raymond's very normalcy juxtaposed with his victim's anguish creates superb filmic tension.

The film's lulling pace and parallel plot line takes the audience on a terrifying journey as the eventual fate of Saskia is revealed in the final minute of the story. The ensuing shock is created when we realise that Rex, who has insisted that the madman tell him what has happened, drinks spiked coffee in exchange for this knowledge, awakens to discover he has been buried alive. The climax of the film is surely one of greatest shocking moments in cinema.

An intricate examination of the human condition, Spoorloos represents the emergence of a new wave of psychological thrillers. A thoroughly discomfiting film, Spoorloos succeeds through its expert storytelling and the absolutely jolting denouement. In the 1993 American remake—an insult to the original film version—director George Sluizer was unable to translate Tim Krabbe's vision from his novel The Golden Egg.

—Marion Pilowsky


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