In the USA, it is known as The Vanishing, which is a rather simplistic title for such a film. This is a very intelligent film, well crafted, an exercise in mortality, good vs evil labels, the nature of people. Even though the ending was given away online long ago, I always knew that such knowledge does not matter, and actually the ending is hinted at early in the film, anyways. I love that use of foreshadowing, giving the audience clues, filing us in while leaving the characters in the dark.
At times this can be frustrating on both ends, yet in George Sluizer’s modern classic he is more concerned with the bigger picture than details or giving the audience closure. I hate that it is supposed to be a European or foreign in general style of film making, especially when someone such as Christopher Nolan or other American directors have used such techniques. This all depends on the audience, and in the horror genre audiences can be rather fickle, as I learned after going to see It Comes At Night last week. And no I have not viewed the remake of this film, which I imagine was a disappointment because it either copied the original, or it decided to forego anything that makes Sluizer’s film a remarkable experience.
Imagine that you went on vacation and your beloved disappeared after making a pit stop. Even worse despite not being under suspicion for her vanishing, you spend the next couple of years desperately searching for her, never knowing her fate, only being able to guess at what happened. In many countries people randomly or purposely disappear; there is a Wikipedia page devoted to such cases, and it is rather creepy. Sluizer embodies his main character, Rex, with both devotion to his beloved, Saskia, and the obsessive need to find her, to know what happened, even as his dreams give him a darker realization he chooses to ignore. Raymond, the other man in the film, is one focusing on his own nature, choosing to embark on a horrible path that his philosophical musings have lead him to-its as if both men are bound by destiny.
It is great that the film even features this discussion, especially in an intense moment between Raymond and Rex (interesting names for the two, both start with R and are masculine in nature) where both men struggle physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. You can properly label Raymond a monster and yet Sluizer refuses to give us this easy out, showing him as a family man with a capacity to love.
In fact, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu as Raymond gives one of the finest performances ever in a horror drama film. He is both creepy and sympathetic, and unlike Rex, who seems to at times doubt who he is Raymond never once denies what he is doing or his very nature. Raymond’s monologue about his boyhood past is equal parts chilling and sad, a part of the film that is very important to understanding what he has become over the years.
I really dig the film’s ending because it as much about the banality of evil, of making us realize how monsters do not exist save for in fiction. People commit acts of evil, yet that does not make them any less human. Rex perhaps deserves what happens to him, for he cannot turn away and move forward, his past love trapping him. Gene Bervoets also deserves proper credit in this film, as he is also great, and Johanna ter Steege as Saskia shows why Rex cannot let her go, casting her spell over the film even after she exits. When it comes to horror films that leave an impact, Spoorloos is in that rare class of horror that is quite unforgettable, and is a great example of a horror movie that has added more to both world cinema and horror in general.