The Dutch filmmaker best known stateside for The Vanishing and the River Phoenix Western Dark Blood died Saturday in Amsterdam. George Sluizer was 82. He won a Silver Bear at Berlin for his 1961 debut, the documentary short Hold Back The Sea, and returned to the festival four more times in the ensuing decades. Three of Sluizer’s films were nominated for the Golden Bear: The Commissioner (1998), John, The Knife And The River (1972) — both of which he also scripted — and Utz (1992). The latter won three awards at the Berlinale, including Best Actor for star Armin Mueller-Stahl. “We mourn the loss of a great filmmaker, who has been equally active in fiction and documentary film,” Berlin fest Director Dieter Kosslick said. “With his passion for filmmaking and exceptional versatility, George Sluizer will live on in our memories forever.”
Sluizer’s best known film remains The Vanishing (1988), about a man whose girlfriend goes missing and who starts to receive letters from her abductor three years later. Sluizer also helmed the film’s U.S. remake starring Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock, but it failed to garner the critical acclaim of the original and tanked at the box office. That same year, the filmmaker was working on Dark Blood, but the production was shelved after the death of its star Phoenix. The film was about 80% completed, and the unfinished product reverted to the film’s insurance company. But Sluizer later recovered the rights and socked the film away — for what would be nearly 20 years. The finished film screened out of competition in Berlin last year; at a press conference, Sluizer explained that he learned in 1999 that the footage was going to be destroyed and within two days was able to save it and take it back to Holland. he said the material “laid in my care for many years waiting for something to happen with it. I was making other films at the time and it was safe.” But when he learned he had a life-threatening aneurism in 2007, he decided, “Before I die I want to put Dark Blood together as best I can.” Sluizer provided his own voice-over for the scenes that were not completed at the time of Phoenix’s death.
Sluizer, who was born June 25, 1932 in Paris, also directed The Stone Raft (2002), Dying To Go Home (1996), Crimetime (1996), Red Desert Penitentiary (1985) and Twice A Woman (1979).