It is on a very rare occasion that a filmmaker is asked to redefine his/her own vision, but it does happen. Such is the case of The Vanishing, originally a French film, from '88, remade 5 years later
for American audiences, by the same director. Few changes happened during the transition; American actors, American names, oh and a different ending. For my money, the original is still the way to go. Haunting visuals, and moreso, haunting performances from all involved. Criterion presents us with an incredible DVD of the original production of The Vanishing.
Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna Ter Steege) are vacationing lovers who are about to take a wrong turn of drastic proportions. After stopping at a gas station/rest stop, Saskia departs to the store for some drinks, never to return. Rex begins a 3-year campaign, posting missing signs and appearing on TV pleading to the abductor for some closure. Rex just wants to know what happened. In the mean time, Raymond (Bernard Pierre Donnadieu, a professor and family man no less) the gentlemen who abducted poor Saskia, responds to the pleas of Rex. Rex unknowingly accepts what may be the biggest challenge of his life, and to tell you anymore would truly be criminal.
The Vanishing is one of those rare treats of a thriller. Not your typical run of the mill psychological thriller, yet not wholly original in its own rights. I find the original to be truly frightening, where as the remake plays more like a movie of the week (not that it should be discounted completely). The ideas presented in The Vanishing, wouldn't be much if it weren't for their execution, and that's the key. It's the way the events are panned out that really scares, as we the viewer sense the desperation and anxiety of the characters. This is what makes the Vanishing unique and essential viewing.
The Vanishing is presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, on a dual layered disc enhanced for widescreen TV's. The transfer is simply flawless. Not a hint of print damage and I do mean no print damage is evident. Colors are bright and vibrant, all around an extremely pleasing transfer.
Sound is Dolby Digital Mono, and once again, flawless. Dialogue is crisp and clear with absolutely no distortion. This is one of those Mono soundtracks that just doesn't play as Mono. The orchestrations stand out in this film, its got a great score, and the mono soundtrack truly does it justice. In a time when distributors are so eager to slap on a new DTS or 5.1 track on just about anything, it's nice to see that someone is finally keeping it real! The Vanishing is presented in its original French language, with nice readable English subs. The Subs seem accurate and don't dumb down the dialogue at all. The packaging states newly translated subtitles, and this is evident when watching. These are truly subtitles and the not the dreaded "dubtitles" we've all come to know and love from foreign translations.
Extras are limited to just a theatrical trailer. It would have been nice to hear a director's commentary (or at least a featurette), especially since he directed the remake as well. I bet his thoughts would have been really interesting on the experiences as a whole, but alas, it was not meant to be. It's hard to complain because transfers like this are hard to come by, some how distributors find a way to screw it up, but not in this case. If you choose to check out The Vanishing, the original is the way to go, and this Criterion DVD, is gonna be tough to beat.