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The Vanishing

#172 - The Vanishing
George Sluizer, 1988

A Dutch couple go on vacation in France but the woman is kidnapped, leading the man to spend years obsessing over her disappearance.

I already knew how The Vanishing would end ahead of renting it, and while it is sort of presented as something of a twist, in the wider context of the film it ultimately isn't and is instead just the logical conclusion of both its main characters' journeys. The filmmaking on display is fairly standard-looking, which only suits the subject matter even more, though the score does sound awfully dated and has a tendency to damage a scene's mood considerably (case in point - a blackly comic scene where the villain practices his methodology for kidnapping a victim has some whimsical music playing behind it that intends to emphasise the comedy but instead ends up diluting it). Otherwise, it's a solid enough piece of work about the strangely symbiotic relationship that develops between its hero and villain. The acting is serviceable, though credit is due to the two leads for managing to convey how they really aren't so different in their searches for some greater truth (even if the villain's quest is merely to find out just how much evil he is capable of). This does make the seemingly implausible third act play out reasonably well.

Unfortunately, the problem with having the film hinge on the relationship between hero and villain is that it takes a while for that relationship to seriously form. As such, the first act does go by rather slowly in setting up the disappearance and kicking off the plot. Then there's a sequence of scenes showcasing the whole "hero's obsession with disappearance ruins his life" narrative intertwined with the villain's flashbacks to his preparation for the act, which are somewhat comical due to his apparent ineptitude at finding a victim. This is definitely a film that deserves to be remembered for its intriguing take on its lead characters' psychological profiles and the third act is well-handled, but the first two acts are awfully pedestrian and, though I don't doubt their necessity to the story, still feel dull enough that sitting through them feels like a chore.