The Vanishing (1993)
Based on Het Gouden Ei by Tim Krabbé
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, Nancy Travis, Sandra Bullock
Budget $23M Box Office $14,543,394
IMDb 6.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes 47% Metacritic 49/100
The other day, I caught an old 90s psychological thriller on TV. I’ve seen the movie many times so I didn’t have to see it from the beginning to know what was going on at the time I came in on it. This truly is a movie that I watched as a kid and have remembered very well, even to this day.
The gist of the story is a boyfriend and girlfriend, Jeff and Diane (almost sounds like a John Mellencamp song) are road tripping, she goes missing and he spends the next three years trying to find her…unsuccessfully. During this time, he tries to forge a new romance with a new woman, Rita. Yet, in the background, he still maintains a stringent search for Diane…unbeknownst to Rita. It creates lies and problems and of course, they split.
Then, just as Jeff has seemingly lost everything and all his hope, the man who took Diane appears at his front door and offers him all the answers he has been seeking. With one condition. He must experience everything exactly as Diane experienced it, then he will know what happened to her.
Now, I find no need to tell you any more than that about the actual details of the plot. However, the psychology behind the film is so twisted and out there, it’s like Jigsaw before there was Saw, only with a twist.
This guy, the bad guy, Barney, he’s all about philosophy, okay? He likes to prove things to himself. Like when he was fifteen, he wanted to prove he had the courage to jump off the balcony of his house, so he did. And it made him proud. He claims psychologically that prepped him to jump from a dock hanging out over a lake and save a little girl from drowning. Now, I personally don’t know anyone that can swim that wouldn’t jump off the dock to save a little girl in a LAKE from drowning, not like it’s the ocean. But, in his mind, he makes it this big ordeal about how his daughter thinks he’s a hero and that made him feel guilty because he didn’t know if he was really deserving of his daughter’s love.
This is where we get all philosophical, or well, Barney does at least. He needs to know if he is as capable of evil as he is of heroism. That in itself seems like a jacked-up reason to hurt someone. But he thinks this will make somehow a more complete human being, a kindred spirit as he chooses to sort of describe it. In theory, you can’t have one without the other. If you believe in one, you kinda have to believe in the other. Good can’t exist without evil. It’s like having light without dark or wet without dry. One state can’t exist without the presence of the other.
So, Barney wants to know if he’s a complete human or just a big ol’ softy that cares about others and lives right and contributes to society…oh wait, that’s most normal human beings, that’s right, I forgot for a second. Apparently though, being average, being normal, being like everyone else isn’t good enough for Barney. William Shakespeare wrote, “Nothing is so common as the wish to be remarkable.” So many people crave to be outwardly special, possess some special talent, have some special gift, something that sets them apart from everyone else. What they fail to realize is that we are all unique.
Unfortunately, being inwardly unique wasn’t enough for Barney. He had a wife who loved him and was devoted to him, he had a thirteen-year-old daughter that thought he was a God, he had a nice job, lovely house. What’s not worth having in that??? Most people, most normal people that is, that would be enough.
But, then there’s Jeff. The inability to accept not knowing is truly an American thing, in my opinion. We as Americans (the current times are a perfect example) will do damn near anything we are told as long as we are told WHAT and WHY. Americans LOVE the WHY. We require explanation, detail, information. As time wears on through the years, we seem to require more explanation than we used to (kind of worries me just a tad). We also seem to have a hard time wrapping our heads around the idea of “I don’t know”. I mean, even as human beings, it’s hard for many when asked about religion or faith to not have SOMETHING they cling to. It’s a scary thought to a lot of people that things just happen unexplained and for no reason. That there might not be an afterlife, that once you are dead, that’s it, you’re dead. People fear the unknown. And in absence of actual information they will grasp at whatever makes them feel safe and secure.
And as Americans and just plain human beings, we want answers. And Jeff, well, he just can’t seem to get his life together after Diane disappears. If he had found her dead or something, that would be different, but he has no idea what happened to her, she was there and then, she wasn’t. Jeff just can’t stomach that. No matter how hard he tries, even with Rita at his side he is still willing to give up everything for the opportunity to go back those three years and find out everything that happened to Diane.
Just think about that, I’ve lost people to things uncertain and certainly unexplained, and I can’t say that I would give up the life I’ve built to go back in time to get that one answer. I don’t think my loved ones would want that for me either. That strikes me as so entirely self-absorbed. It’s like Jeff thinks he’s the only person to ever lose someone without answers. It’s like he doesn’t realize that he’s destroying not only his life, but others.
And Rita. Poor, poor Rita. She loves Jeff so much and she’s lived through so much that she just doesn’t know how to give up. Talk about a fighting soul. This chick is hard core deep down inside. Jeff doesn’t really know it, but he’s no match for Rita and her resolve. And neither is Barney.
If you want to know how it all comes together, you’ll have to watch the movie.
3/27/2020 10:13:30 pm
I am a huge fan of Jeff Bridges. During his peak, he was able to make a lot of films to satisfy his fans, and I must say that he is really good at acting. U have watched this film, but a lot of questions were left on my mind, actually. There were unclear details and I am not really a fan of the movie itself. Though Jeff is a good actor, I was searching form some parts that I could have seen. Well, some people might have liked it that proves that we have our own taste when it comes to films!
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