Lost in the Movies: The Vanishing as Twin Peaks Cinema #19 - Disordered Stories (podcast)

The Vanishing as Twin Peaks Cinema #19 - Disordered Stories (podcast)

To my surprise, this is one of the longest episodes of Twin Peaks Cinema: a study of the chilling, riveting Dutch thriller The Vanishing from the late eighties (right around the time Twin Peaks itself was first conceived and produced). Like the other three subjects of fifty-plus-minute episodes - Vertigo, The Sweet Hereafter, and Mysterious Skin - this is one of the darkest Peaks-connected films, with a rich sense of character psychology. Unlike them, and unlike Fire Walk With Me, The Vanishing does not really explore the victim's side of the coin to the same extent as the detective's. The perspectives it offers are more akin to Cooper's and Leland's (and maybe even Windom Earle's!) than Laura's. That is not to say the story doesn't have a Laura Palmer-like character of course; Saskia is played by Johanna ter Steege, a luminous presence and lively performer whose curious mind and warm charisma anchor the opening passage of the movie before her disappearance haunts the rest. Once she casually enters a gas station and is never seen again, her brooding lover Rex (Gene Bervoets) spends years obsessed with her image on TV screens and missing posters, tracing and re-tracing their steps together and giving interviews which disturb the kidnapper Raymond (Bernard Pierre Donnadieu). That's not a spoiler, by the way, since he's introduced even before the kidnapping itself! This early reveal is embedded in a narrative jumbled with flashbacks and re-tellings (hence its inclusion as part of the "disordered stories" season alongside last month's timey-wimey Back to the Future Part II and next month's classically fractured Rashomon). Not identity, but motivation and outcome are the mysteries here along with the question of whether Rex will - or could - ever get satisfaction in his quest. In a way, Fire Walk With Me - or rather the process that led to Fire Walk With Me - is present in The Vanishing, because Rex's determined pursuit of Saskia, consequences be damned, resembles David Lynch behind the camera as much as anyone onscreen. Unable to give up on someone who appears to just be gone, he forces his way back into the past at great personal cost.

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