“The Vanishing (Spoorloos)” is a 1988 psychological thriller film that depicts a missing person case of a woman from two viewpoints: the lover of the woman and a man who kidnaped her. A French-Dutch co-production. Directed by George Sluizer. The script is an adaptation of the novella “The Golden Egg” (1984) by Tim Krabbé. 107 minutes.
The first part of the film follows a young Dutch couple, Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege). In July, they make a trip to France by car to spend the vacation in a cottage area.
They stop the car at a rest area. When Saskia goes get some drinks, she suddenly disappears. Rex frantically searches for her.
After that, the viewpoint of the film switches to the kidnapper. A French chemistry professor, Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) lives with his wife and two daughters in Nîmes, Southern France. He plans to kidnap and murder a young woman. For him, it is an experiment to do “the ultimate evil” as a perfect crime.
Raymond makes a careful plan. He buys a mountain lodge for the plan. He repeats a simulation over and over, in which he puts a plaster on his arm, asks for help from a woman, pretending to be an injured person, stuns her by use of chloroform, and takes her away by car.
Raymond has many failures in kidnapping, but he successfully kidnaps Saskia by chance.
Three years after Saskia’s disappearance, Rex is still searching for her obsessively. He receives several postcards from the kidnapper. He tries to contact the kidnapper to find out what happened to Saskia.
The terrifying thing about this film is that the kidnapper is depicted as a very ordinary person who happened to have a sociopathic personality. Halfway through the film, the audience find themselves empathizing with not only Rex but also Raymond. It makes us think about the fine line between normality or abnormality, or “the banality of evil” (Hannah Arendt).
Stanley Kubrick described this film as the most terrifying film he’d ever seen.
The 1993 American film “The Vanishing” directed by George Sluizer is a remake of this film.