I've said before that I always use the titles I first heard whenever naming a review for this site, but this title is Spoorloos for another reason on top of that. I don't want anyone thinking I'm talking about Sluizer's American remake under the same English title, The Vanishing.
A man goes on a road trip through France with his girlfriend/wife/what-have-you. While stopped at a gas station, she decides to stop in and get them both drinks and never returns. Completely destroyed by this, the man spends the next several years of his life searching for her kidnapper. His persistence pays off eventually, as his fliers finally catch the attention of the kidnapper himself.
It may seem like I'm giving something away even though I normally never do (with the exception of The Uninvited as I was completely determined to tear that remake apart). However, none of that description is a spoiler as most of that is given to the viewers right away. The focus of Spoorloos is very much the conflict and thoughts of the two men involved. It is for all intents and purposes one of the greatest character studies ever filmed. While one of the major points has popped up repeatedly in both film culture and music (how long would you search for the one you love?) there are a myriad of other important aspects to pick up along the way. Maybe the most important part, though, is how closely the film hits home. You have no choice but to immediately root for the man as he desperately clings to memories of her, knowing full well you would do the same.
I won't waste your time with many of the more technical aspects as you should be spending your time hunting down a copy of this piece for yourself, but some things need to be said for those who are interested. The camera is served to us in a mostly minimalistic style, rarely focusing on backdrops or rapid motion, chosing instead to give us intense, focused shots on the people involved. The camera never falters, challenging us to bare witness, and even mentally take part in, the events that unfold.
Notes: Never Take Bike Trips to France