Spoorloos (1988)

The film deals with philosophical issues without any didactic tone of voice as in some of Jean-Luc Godard’s films. Its narration is superbly constructed in strange suspense. The suspense does not come from the story itself. The plot is revealed in a rather clear and plain manner. Yet, seemingly dissociated incidents are intricately weaved and indicate there is more to the movie.

Two points of importance, at least to me: Raymond’s motivation for abducting and killing Saskia, and Rex’s compulsion to know what happened to Saskia.

Raymond’s motivation for killing Saskia is rather ridiculous and absurd, but it teases out questions of free will, destiny and morality. (Yes, this goes back to my fascination with Rodney Brooks’s question of free will.) Why should we be moral? If we can be good by choice of free will, then can we be bad by choice? Are we destined to be good by nature or are we prescribed to be good by social norms? If so, is it still regarded as being “good”? Can we be good without thinking we are good? However, Raymond’s venture into this philosophical enterprise can only be a symptom of his boredom of bourgeois life, as a respectable family man with a wife, two daughters, a stable job, and wealth. A bit like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, but more sober and comical to the point of being silly.

I have not come up with a convincing answer for Rex’s compulsion to know what happened to Saskia. The scene in which he cries out “Saskia” in his own coffin says a lot, yet it is difficult to be put in words.


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