January 29, 1991 [The Vanishing (Spoorloos)]

Pete was not happy with the end of The Vanishing. He argued that even Awakenings, which we’d seen a few weeks ago, had a better ending. Sure, De Niro breaks your heart when he falls back asleep--but he’s supposed to; the point is the time spent awake, the doctor’s love, the two of them living full lives in a short space. Sleep makes sense.

--But this Franco-Dutch death-in-life: where else can it go? The young couple travel through a dark tunnel--the young woman dreaming of being trapped forever in a golden egg--and the dream comes true for the both of them? That’s it? The movie was over before it began, he complained. Nothing they did mattered--especially the young man: not even his search for his vanished love had the passion of an obsession; it was as if he simply picked up a shovel and dug graves for them. He runs to death by running to hers.

I argued with my son, with his young insistence that one should do more than trudge to the dark hole. I suggested that the young man wanted to live in the golden egg with her, and saw no other way than to seek the man who had made her vanish--who had built the egg for her--and who the young man hoped would do the same for him. In a way, it’s a story about love--an almost-Japanese lovers’ suicide pact--this time assisted by meticulous evil.

--And speaking of which, I added hopefully, that was some bad guy, eh? Cool middle-class cucumber testing his own trap, chloroforming himself, trials and errors leading to a tidy set of maneuvers and firmly packed earth. Scary business, yes?

He would have none--well, hardly any--of it. Just another evil accountant, he shrugged; the movie monster of choice these days--the ones that don’t hunt campers and babysitters, that is. I want more than dot-dot-dot at the end, he said; only Hitchcock’s birds get a free pass with this kind of thing.

He’s right, I know--but this is the movies, and some of them do as they, not we, please. I promised him that The Silence of the Lambs next month will not let him down--I’d read the novel, and hope that nobody cheats him out of the occasional victory.


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