After such a strong week two, week three began with a bit of a disadvantage. Beginning in Japan, and ending in Poland, week three crisscrossed the globe, telling an incredibly diverse group of stories along the way. A surrealist short (from the incomparable Luis Buñuel), a rockumentary, an Oscar nominee, and a chilling horror diversified my week three viewing experience, rendering it the most jarring day-to-day film campaign of my “March.” From the hammy melodrama of Misaki Kobayashi’s I Will Buy You to the psychological complexities of Jane Campion’s Sweetie, week three became an exercise in “resetting” my expectations. One of my goals for this project was to go into as many films as blindly as possible. I purposefully neglected to research any films on my list (save for the few added to alleviate the pressure of my expanding queue), challenging myself to pick up cues as to the narrative structure/cinematic style without any preconceptions or information. With the narrative subversion of I Will Buy You, and the disjointed timeline of Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain, week three proved to be a conjectural struggle. In order to fully appreciate these films, any prior knowledge, biases, and even my mood had to be discarded before facing the daily film. More so than any other week, my ability to discard supposition was rigorously tested. The need to quickly pick up social cues, cultural and historical context and narrative tendencies was crucial to fully understanding each of week three’s diverse range of films – strengthening my abilities to conceptualize a film’s purpose without any prior research.
The Vanishing (Originally titled, Spoorloos) is every bit as claustrophobic as its diabolical villain. George Sluizer’s thrilling masterpiece is so terrifying, even Stanley Kubrick (The Shining) was quoted as saying, “[The Vanishing is] the most horrifying film I’ve ever seen”.
The Vanishing is the tale of a Dutch couple, Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege) who are on holiday in France. The couple stop to rest and refuel, but Saskia never makes it back to the car. The incredibly distraught Rex tries desperately to piece together small bits of evidence; a Polaroid of Saskia exiting the store with an unidentifiable man, and witness testimony of her activities are the only two clues. Sluizer then uses this opportunity to explore the kidnapper’s history. A house purchased in the French countryside and tested for seclusion, a meticulously planned-out method of rendering his victims unconscious and the length of time in which he must complete his deranged errand. Three years pass, and after a very lucid dream, and five postcards from Lemorne, Hofman decides to re-open his investigation into the disappearance of his beloved Saskia. Upon seeing the new “missing” posters, Lemorne becomes intrigued and sets up a meeting with Hofman. With Lemorne, Sluizer paints the picture of a fastidious madman, while simultaneously, displaying his relative normality; thereby creating a sense of unease in the audience. Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) has a loving wife, and two adoring daughters. He blends into crowds, and is more-or-less friendly. It is in these details that Sluizer is able to turn this every-man into a truly menacing predator.