The Vanishing (1993)
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"The Vanishing" is the story of Jeff, whose claustrophobic girlfriend Diane goes missing from a gas station and never returns. For years, Jeff is plagued with guilt and never gives up on the search for Diane, not even after meeting Rita, with whom he begins a serious relationship. But Rita soon becomes sick of Jeff's obsession and leaves him after a bitter confrontation. It is at this point that Jeff's obsession pays off and Barney comes looking for him. Barney knows what happened to Diane, because he is the one who kidnapped her. But Barney will only tell Jeff what happened if Jeff agrees to go through everything that Diane went through without knowing in advance what that might be. Jeff agrees and disappears, and now it is Rita who is obsessed with discovering what has happened to him.
This isn't a terrible film by any means. The performances are great, particularly by Keifer Sutherland as Jeff. His portrayal of the guilt-ridden, haunted man is near perfect. There are some great moments of comedy provided by Park Overall as Rita's friend Lynn. But "The Vanishing" lacks the power of "Spoorloos" despite a harrowing scene in which Jeff learns the fate of Diane firsthand, a scene which is identical to the original. Still, I don't understand why when a foreign film is remade for American audiences, it is almost always assumed that we want more gore and a happy ending, thank you very much. Both cheapen the story in this case. "Spoorloos" was a film of terrible sorrow and grim reality, both of which will (or at least SHOULD) leave even the most hardened horror fan shaken. "The Vanishing" is slightly less effective, going in for cheap thrills and a kick-ass finale a la Hollywood.
I would recommend seeing it ONLY if you're going to watch "Spoorloos" as well.
His new girlfriend (Nancy Travis) tries to help him pick up the pieces of his life but gets increasingly frustrated over his fascination with the mystery. Diane's kidnapper Barney (Jeff Bridges) has his own interest piqued by Jeff.
There still persists the perception that remakes are inferior to originals and that European cinema is artistically superior to Hollywood. This movie is used to illustrate those points. But these are far from the only reasons it flopped.
The casting didn't follow the traditional route. It does not impact the quality of the production and should not be counted as negative. But it deflated the commercial appeal by ignoring the superficial tastes of moviegoers.
Kiefer Sutherland is an actor audiences more readily accept as a darker character than victimized nice guy Jeff. This is well-evidenced by his critical triumph in the movie 'Freeway' three years later as a kidnapper/murderer.
At the time he was also mostly seen bolstering ensemble casts rather than as a conventional male lead. His strong performance should have been enough to carry the film and it would have been had there not been other factors.
Jeff Bridges was more readily accepted by audiences as a nice guy male lead. He wanted to play a creep for a change and did an impeccable job here. But audiences had to look past over 20 years of typecasting to accept him in the role and most couldn't. As a result one of the finest characterizations in his long, distinguished career is overlooked.
No actress could have given a more convincing performance than Nancy Travis in the role of Rita, the heroine. But audiences liked Sandra Bullock better and have always wanted to see more of her which in this case would have meant giving her the more substantial role of Rita than the tragic role of kidnapped Diane.
At the time (1991-92 pre-production) how could anyone know that Sandra Bullock would soon top the box office like few actresses before her? Nancy Travis had been in a string of hits but then little-known Bullock would surpass her as a star within 18 months of the release of this film. Had they known, there can be little doubt Bullock would have played Rita.
The ultimate sin that North American film audiences could not forgive is obvious pandering to their own glaring superficial tastes when it comes to how movies end. The 1988 original European version haunted audiences and made them think because of its dark conclusion. That version didn't have a Hollywood ending and that was its payoff - one meant for an entirely different audience.
The Hollywood version not only wraps up the conflict between the characters differently (rewarding perseverance over intellect, good over evil in typical Hollywood tradition), it also includes a tacked-on, whimsical denouement. North American film audiences DO prefer happy endings with neat and tidy closure.
But expecting them to embrace the glaring implication that they can't handle scary and/or thought-provoking material is an unforgivable insult which could only elicit the kind of derision from reviewers that it has even though the action which leads up to it is far from boring or silly. Had the film been an original with a facile and obtuse resolution it would have been accepted if not embraced.
Hollywood studios obviously have final approval on the cut released to theatres in most instances. A trick some auteurs can employ when attempting to keep the integrity of a darker-themed film is to wait until the deadline before delivering the finished product and including two endings. One ending will be the darker one they want. The other will be the happy ending - one shot and cut so badly that the studio will presumably have to go with the darker ending. This ploy might work if studios cared more about the quality of what they were releasing rather than its box office p potential.
Then there is the release date - February, 1993. What happens in February in Western Culture every year? Valentine's Day! Does this look like a date movie to you? Everything about how this movie was made and marketed invited flop status.
As I said the action which leads up to the finale is far from boring or silly. In fact much of it is quite watchable and on par with (and in many cases identical to) the original. Where it actually improves upon the original is in its addition of a female lead.
Rita is much more interesting than Lieneke - the second girlfriend character in the original an incidental character compared with Rita. Affable, considerate, blessed with work ethic and self-deprecating modesty truck-stop waitress Rita is an unlikely heroine for a Hollywood film.
Indeed truck-stop waitress is an occupation designed for comic relief or passive anonymity in most Hollywood cinema. A female lead can usually portray one only if her character arc ends in her being beneficiary of an extreme reversal of fortune i.e. marrying a rich dude or becoming a supermodel.
Rita doesn't entertain herself with such fantasies but she does have aspirations. When Jeff walks in she remembers him from high school but he doesn't remember her. He pulls out a picture of Diane and asks if she has seen her. Rita says that her mind blots out most of the faces she sees. Yet she remembers him. This is a character that knows what she wants as unromantic as it may seem.
This isn't what North Americans look for in movie heroines if you go by box office and surveys. They may live their lives differently and they even may be happy. But they go to movies to see something else.
this goes out to all who are P***** of by this movie and wrote their opinion by giving it an 1 or a 2. I have also seen the original and like it very much, however I totally disagree calling the American version as pure s***. I think The Vanishing is as good as the original or even better, especially Jeff Bridges as Barney is incredible which alone makes it worth to watch this movie. And there are quiet many people who agree to me and think that this a good thriller, for sure not perfect but very exciting, all in all intelligent and interesting. To those of you who permanently try to compare it to "Spoorlos" and who seem to be so disappointed I can only say, what did you expect? How could George Sluizer make you feel satisfied when he directed "The Vanishing" in 1993? I would agree; it's a typical Hollywood thriller but it's a good one; if you tried to regard it more individually I would suppose you to agree. I mean I only think it's a pity that those who haven't seen this movie and might be interested to watch it get such an underrated opinion of it just because some of you are showing their personal disgust to Hollywood remakes in a such a low way. I also use to enjoy Europeen cinema very much. Generally prefer it to so called blockbusters from Hollywood. But this remake is great and deserves a better vote. I give it a 9 and at least some of those who watched this movie should agree. Everyone who is able to comment movies without prejudices should be able to diversify "The Vanishing" from real crap giving it at least a 5 or a 6 even if he or she doesn't like it so very much.
Jeff (Sutherland) and Diane (Bullock in a too-short role) stop at a rest area while on vacation. She goes in to buy drinks, and he never sees her again. Three years later, he meets someone new (Nancy Travis) but is still obsessed with finding Diane. After he goes on TV and pleads for information (you kind of wonder why he hasn't done this earlier, or why there seem to be no other family members looking for her, but I guess these are irrelevant questions) the kidnapper Barney (Jeff Bridges) contacts him.
Along with Jeff, we gradually come to realize what happened to Diane, and we are effectively sickened and saddened. Let me say that the beauty of this film is that other than the kidnapping, we are never shown what happens to Diane, only what Barney makes Jeff experience. Knowing it, but not seeing it (except as what happens to Jeff) is powerfully haunting. And for Sandy fans, the scene in which Jeff returns to the area where Diane disappeared, and envisions her again, makes this film worth seeing for that alone. Sutherland is brilliant and Bullock is at her most exquisitely beautiful. I burst into tears at this haunting and moving scene.
Having said all that, Jeff Bridges' odd accent is annoying and just plain weird. Is it supposed to be Dutch? No explanation given. In any case, I am now unable to see Jeff Bridges in anything without feeling sick. ***BIG SPOILER*** Also, have you ever noticed how in movies it's light outside late at night, even in a forest? This is what conveniently enables Rita to dig up Jeff from his burial spot, and Jeff to see Diane's grave (actually a nice touch there), even though in reality it would be pitch black out there. Despite these and other minor flaws, I liked this film.
To sum up, I'm ambivalent about recommending this movie, since it is so disturbing and absolutely not for kids or even teens, but if you (an adult) enjoy feeling creeped out for a good long while, rent this one. And I'd still like to find the original version.
Over all this movie is really great and my rating is a huge 8 out of 10.
By now, everybody knows the story, so I won't belabor that point. But to me the high point was the confrontation between Jeff and Rita once Rita discovers Jeff is still obsessed with finding Diane. Great scene with great acting, and a totally believable revelation from Jeff that his obsession isn't about still being in love with Diane, it's about not knowing what happened to her.
**** BIG SPOILER ALERT **** The ending to me was very predictable, very typical, and very weak. Again, I had not (and still have not) seen the original. But I'm sitting there watching this and I'm going, "OK, Rita is gonna save the day and everything will be fine." Because that's what happens in these types of movies. And that's exactly what happens and it's terrible, because it's unbelievable. If Rita is this damn smart why is she just a waitress at a coffee shop? Moving on, my thoughts were that this movie would carry much more impact if it had ended with Jeff awakening in the coffin knowing he was buried alive and a slow fade away shot of Barney Cousins eating a solitary meal at his cabin, with Rita having no idea what happened (because she had left Jeff earlier that day "forever").
Course, I then read on IMDb that's how the original ended (more or less). Now I'm off to find a copy of the original and compare it to this. Ciao.
This certainly applies to filmmakers. Very few have the chance to completely remake the whole thing from start to finish. But this was the opportunity presented to Dutch filmmaker, Georges Sluizer when US producers approached him to create a new, English language version of his acclaimed film, "The Vanishing" or "Spoorloos" to give it the correct Dutch title; a unique opportunity to improve on the original.
Did he succeed? To judge from nearly all the critics, the answer is a resounding no. The Hollywood version is dismissed as a poor imitation of the original at best and a total travesty at worst. Is the criticism justified or is it just a snobby attitude that automatically assumes European cultural superiority over Hollywood crassness, or did Sluizer sacrifice the integrity he had brought to the first version? The producers felt that American audiences would not accept the ending as it stood. As a result, the film received the most formulaic of endings, destroying the mood and underlying creepiness that made the original so disturbing.
Jeff Bridges character, Barney Cousins, begins by experimenting with chloroform to see how long it takes to render someone unconscious. Bridges plays Barney as an eccentric character – far more mannered than his opposite number in the Dutch version played by Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu.
A young couple enters the story, Jeff Harriman and Diane Shaver, played by Keifer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock. They are travelling up the coast together and bicker constantly, creating the hot and cold relationship that was so effective in the original.
After a number of incidents, they pull into a gas station. When Diane goes to the bathroom, she never returns. Jeff calls the police but Diane has vanished.
Three years elapse and Jeff has never given up hope of finding Diane. He meets a waitress, Rita played by Nancy Travis, and they move in together. However, Jeff is still obsessed with finding Diane and Rita decides to leave.
In the meantime, Barney sees Jeff on television. He eventually approaches Jeff and tells him that he was the person who abducted Diane.
Barney receives a beating, but tells Jeff that the only way he will find out what happened to Diane is to go with him and be drugged, duplicating the way Diane was abducted. Jeff's need to know overrides all else and he agrees. He awakens to find himself buried alive; the fate that befell Diane. And that is where things were left in the original – an uncompromisingly bleak ending.
Not so in the remake.
The last part of "The Vanishing" is not only changed physically but also symbolically from the harrowing ending of Sluizer's original. In fact, the ending is no longer harrowing; it's just predictable and pedestrian.
The new version has Rita arriving in the nick of time to save Jeff. The film ends on a light-hearted note when Rita and Jeff both refuse a cup of coffee, having given up the beverage after experiencing Barney's thermos of laced coffee.
Sluizer must have felt compelled to accept an ending that was so standard and safe that good work generated in other areas of the remake went for nothing – but maybe it all goes back to the decision to redo it in the first place; "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
Do yourself a great favor if you're looking for a rental and skip this grotesque garbage and pick up the original made in a Dutch/French collaboration in 1988. That is a great film. This is a horrific mess.
I really like Sandra Bullock, Kiefer Sutherland and particularly Jeff Bridges, but this is just so so lame compared with the original. What where they thinking? Can you imagine Seven with a happy ending with Gwyneth Paltrow running happily into the arms of Brad Pitt in the finale? The whole point the original was such a major international success was because of the shocking finale. So why do you accept this kind of shyte remake? Really, avoid this and GET THE ORIGINAL.
Give this another chance.
It gets four stars from me.
Four out of Four Stars ****
Carl J Grasso
If only I could give this a zero.
Acting is overall great.
Predictable, and without any twists, ending .... no spoilers.
This review is only because I am IMPRESSED with performance of Nancy Travis. She was BRILLIANT, Excellent !
I think, one of the best performance ever (female).
WATCH IT because Nancy Travis produced magic in this movie.
I can't recommended this movie for any other reason, but I am not unhappy at the end.
* "The fear" when you discover that you have lost someone out of the eye. Right to the point where you realize that you have lost them.
* "The doubt" and the "need to know what happened", which is also found in reality and is even worse then knowing the throuth.
* The theme: "Curiosity killed the cat"
* The "burried alive" scene. Very spooky and realisticly filmed.
It did not know that this movie was a remake of a Dutch movie and since I am Dutch, I definetly am going to see that one....