Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Spoorloos (The Vanishing) - DVD - 18/7/10


Tour de France.





There aren't too many Dutch horror films (I only know one other; Zwart Water) but when you can lay claim to something as sinister, unsettling and classy as this little gem then you can really brag about quality over quantity.

There isn't a "monster" or a "slasher" in sight...no buckets of fake blood, no flesh eating zombie, no things going bump in the night or demonic possessions. What you get instead is the far more terrifying prospect of a real wolf in sheeps clothing as "Raymonde" (played brilliantly by Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) embarks on his plan to abduct a young woman. He is a family man, he has a funny little beard, he is a little incompetent, he has a job as a school teacher and yet underneath that "normality" lurks a genuinely disturbed and disturbing man...a sociopath.

"Raymonde" selects "Saskia" at a motorway service station and lures her into his car before whisking her away to an uncertain fate. While doing so her partner, "Rex", is waiting for her to return from the vending machine. When she doesn't come back he is plunged into a hellish world of not knowing and he spends the next three years trying to find out what has happened to the woman he loved. After making a television plea for information "Raymonde" contacts "Rex" and offers to let him discover what has happened...but only if he agrees to experience everything that "Saskia" did.

With real life tales from the Moors Murderers to Josef Fritzl teaching us that the greatest evil doesn't come in any other form than that of the "ordinary" a film like "Spoorloos" manages to be absolutely convincing throughout. There is a sense of horror and suspense that starts at the very beginning of the film and doesn't let up until the, genuinely disturbing, end. The idea that something like this could happen to us or someone we know increases the horror and the tension.

Screenwriter Tim Krabbe adapted his own novel (called "The Golden Egg") and the film is filled with references to, amongst other things, eggs and the colour yellow. The eggs may well be a symbol of the fragile nature of the world we all live in...worlds which require minimum impact to shatter, certainly Rex has his world shattered by the single act of one person being removed from him. There may be something too about the idea of killing the goose in order to get at the "golden egg"...maybe Raymonde symbolises the greed and desperate desire to have our passions sated immediately?

Yellow appears time and again in the film...it cannot be a coincidence that there are constant references to the Tour de France (the winner of which receives a yellow jersey) and the fact that Rex wears a yellow jersey himself in the first act of the film, there is a yellow frisbee too at one point.


A chilling tale that is too close to truth for comfort.

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