George Sluizer’s The Vanishing (1988) made such an art house splash when it got to the U.S. in 1991 that Hollywood brought the director over to—you guessed it—remake his film in English with a more American-friendly cast. The results of this—also called The Vanishing—were tepid box office and a good deal of critical abuse. (It’s not that bad, but the combination of our sense of cultural inferiority and a changed ending made it a whipping boy of a movie that dealt Sluizer’s career a blow from which it’s never recovered.) Here, in any case, is the original French-Dutch film. The film has been likened to Hitchcock—and that’s fair to the degree that the story of a man whose wife mysteriously just vanishes is suitably Hitchcockian, as is his quest first to find her and then, as the years pass, simply to know what happened. But the style isn’t Hitchcock’s, nor are the film’s deeper concerns. I’ve never quite liked the movie nearly as well as I’m supposed to—maybe because I guessed the ending early on and felt I was marking time to get there too often—but I wouldn’t deny its quality, nor its appeal.
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