When a foreign film is remade the director tends to change things like the characters, relationships between the characters, organization of the plot, symbols, and the theme to appeal to American audiences. Why is that? Maybe it’s because “[Americans] just haven’t overcome the language barrier” or that “[foreign] films move at a much slower pace than [American movies]” like Fred Hift states in his article “Film – European movies: Looking for an American audience.” Often time’s American film audiences are too inept to understand the meaning of a foreign film or a film in general without everything being laid out in front of them, they also tend to be a little bit ignorant when it comes to other cultures besides their own – which is why foreign films are becoming more Americanized. This is exactly the case in George Sluizer’s French film Spoorloos, directed in 1988, and the American remake he did titled The Vanishing, directed in 1993. When directing the remake George went on to change multiple things in order to make it more American friendly.
Spoorloos’ main characters were named Rex, Raymond, Lienke, and Saskia. While The Vanishings main characters were named Jeff, Barney, Rita, and Diane. Already you can see a stark difference in the French and American names. Sluizer most likely changed the names because of the pronunciation – I don’t know many people who can pronounce Lienke and Saskia. By changing the names to something like Rita or Diana there’s a comfort factor to the people watching the film, your neighbor can be named Rita and the person who bags your groceries can have the name Diane. When you can relate to a character, or at least a character’s name, it opens up the door for the viewers to feel relaxed. Name changes were not the only difference between the two films regarding characters; they also acted different, or had different personalities. Rex was more calm and collected – he thought things out rationally instead of acting on emotion, while Jeff was the complete opposite. He acted more in anger and did things out of spite, often times in the film it felt like it was either Jeff’s way or the highway, and he wanted things to be catered towards him. Raymond is very snide and calculated – he does everything to a precision and is confident in his work. Compared to Barney who is less self-assured and weaker, Barney needs motivation to do his work and is very easy to manipulate. We see Barney get rejected multiple times in his pursuit to capture a woman and kill her, most were unresponsive, and this is a direct hit to Barney’s confidence. Lienke is someone who is very strong minded and determined, she’s a confident woman who doesn’t need a man’s approval – this is something that American films try to hide. Whereas Rita who is also someone that is strong, she would get jealous and at the end of the film was still the “damsel in distress”. Saskia and Diane were both naïve to go get in a car with a stranger, but if we were to see which one is weaker it would go to Saskia. She seems very fragile and easy to impress, where Diane had a more assertive personality. The differences in the characters also ties into the differences of the relationships between the characters.
The relationships in the two films are different as well. In the French version Rex and Raymond play a cat and mouse game, they both know that each other exists but only meet up towards the end. Rex and Saskia’s relationship seems complicated, but in the little screen time they had together you can see how their love transcends. They’re the couple that everyone knows who breaks up and then gets back together a couple of days later. Rex and Lienke’s relationship seems draining, with all the constant bickering they did it was obvious that Lienke was going to get fed up with Rex and leave him which is what she ended up doing. In the American version the relationship between Jeff and Barney is different than the one in Spoorloos...
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