Plot: A couple has taken a holiday in France and while they’ve had some tension of late, the trip is a source of great fun and relaxation. The two make the most of the getaway and forge some memories that will last forever, but then a routine gas station visit fractures their lives. A stop to refuel and buy some beer should have quick and simple, but instead, will haunt the husband for the rest of his life. His wife goes inside the station to grab some provisions and never comes back, with a frantic search of the area yielding no results. No one seems to have seen what happened or where she might have went, with even the authorities baffled with the situation. Even years after she vanished, the husband refuses to give up the search and becomes consumed with uncovering the truth, no matter what that entails. But when the chance to learn the truth arises, he is drawn into a dark situation that once again, fractures his life.
Entertainment Value: A dark, masterful thriller, The Vanishing refuses to play by the usual genre rules and doesn’t trade on who the villain is, but the mysteries of the human mind. The movie has traces of a more traditional mystery for a while, but soon pretty much hands over all the information most movies save for the big reveal, opting for a more cerebral, psychological approach. Even if you know who was responsible and even details about the motivations, you are still in the dark on so much of what happened, which means you are reeled in even after the credits roll. If you have an interest in the darker side of the human and the psychology involved, The Vanishing is going to thrill you, as it explores those topics. The line that is crossed when someone decides to break social boundaries is a focal point at times, discussed in an interesting, quite eerie fashion by one of the characters. The atmosphere here is masterful as well, with an ever present, ever intensifying current of dread that runs through the entire movie. Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu turns in an ice cold, unforgettable performance here, while Gene Bervoets and Johanna ter Steege are also excellent. The cast is small, but talented and all are on point here.
No nakedness. No blood. There is some very mild violence at one point, but it is brief and no bloodshed ensues. The lack of sexual tension or violence is never an issue whatsoever, as the movie uses atmosphere to push the suspense and dread, to insanely effective ends. Raymond is a horrific character, but he doesn’t need to wield a knife or gun to radiate menace. His average, family man persona is what makes him so eerie, he looks and behaves like a normal, even weak person, but that darkness inside him is always there, just below the surface. So despite the lack of violence, there is never a lack of tension or atmosphere in this one. The dialogue is intense and effective, with some unsettling moments, but is grounded and believable. So the low score is a reflection of the lack of wild lines or outlandish, memorable exchanges, not a direct critique on the writing itself. As for craziness, while the movie is grounded and deliberate, Raymond alone earns a few points for his epic creepiness, while the bleak, dread filled atmosphere is also unnerving throughout.
Overall Insanity: 5/10