The Vanishing director George Sluizer dies aged 82

Dutch director behind River Phoenix’s final film – who courted controversy with Ariel Sharon murder accusation – dies aged 82

• Sluizer interviewed in 2012

George Sluizer, the feted Dutch film-maker who ran aground in Hollywood, has died at the age of 82. The director of The Vanishing and Dark Blood is believed to have been in ill-health for several years after suffering a serious aneurysm at Christmas 2007. “I went by ambulance as a dead person for five hours,” he would later recall. Ill-starred disasters and unlikely comebacks had always been his stock in trade.

Sluizer won the top prize at the Berlin film festival for his 1961 debut, the documentary Low Lands. But he remains best remembered for the 1988 thriller The Vanishing, a stark, stealthy tale about a man’s three-year search for his missing girlfriend that was described by Stanley Kubrick as “the most horrifying film I’ve ever seen”. In the wake of the film’s success, Sluizer agreed to direct the flop US remake starring Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock.

Sluizer’s run of bad American luck would continue with 1993’s Dark Blood, a desert-set saga that was derailed by the sudden death of the actor River Phoenix. The director would wait nearly 20 years before completing the picture to his own satisfaction. He later suggested that this long-running project was what had kept him alive. “I guess I am a craftsman in the sense that I don’t like unfinished projects,” he said.

The film-maker’s other credits include the satirical thriller Crimetime and an adaptation of the Bruce Chatwin novel Utz. He also served as production manager on Werner Herzog’s acclaimed Fitzcarraldo and directed a series of documentaries that charted the fortunes of two displaced Palestinian families.

In 2010 Sluizer sparked controversy with his claims that he had personally witnessed Israel’s defence minister Ariel Sharon kill two children during the Sabra-Shatilla massacre of 1982. Israeli officials derided his accusation as a “modern blood libel”.


Xan Brooks

The GuardianTramp

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