Director George Sluizer: Best known for two versions of film ‘The Vanishing’

He courted controversy when he claimed he had seen Ariel Sharon murder two children in the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla in 1982

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The Independent Online

George Sluizer was a Dutch film-maker who directed River Phoenix’s last film, Dark Blood.

The film was only two-thirds finished in 1993 when Phoenix died of a drug-induced heart attack at the age of 23 outside the Viper Club in Los Angeles. The film was left untouched for years, but Sluizer saved it from destruction in 1998.

Sluizer suffered from arterial disease and narrowly survived a tear in his aorta in 2007, one of the reasons he decided to resume editing Dark Blood. He began editing an altered version of the film, which was shown at the Netherlands Film Festival five years later. “I guess I am a craftsman in the sense that I don’t like unfinished projects,” he said.

In a career that spanned five decades, Sluizer’s most celebrated work was probably the 1988 thriller Spoorloos, or The Vanishing, about a man’s quest to find out what happened to his girlfriend after she disappears without a trace during a stop at a petrol station. Sluizer said Stanley Kubrick had told him the film was the most frightening he had ever seen, and the two met to discuss editing techniques. Sluizer directed a 1992 American remake starring Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock and Kiefer Sutherland, but it was less successful, in part because the dark ending of the original was lightened.

Sluizer was also a documentary maker who  was awarded top prize at the Berlin Film Festival for his 1961 debut, the documentary Low Lands, and Dieter Kosslick, the Festival’s current Director, said, “We mourn the loss of a great film-maker, who has been equally active in fiction and documentary film. With his passion for film-making and exceptional versatility, George Sluizer will live on in our memories forever.”

Sluizer also directed the 1996 satirical thriller about a serial killer, Crimetime, which featured Pete Postlethwaite, and the 1992 adaptation of Bruce Chatwin novel Utz, whose cast indluded Paul Scofield, Brenda Fricker and Miriam Karlin. He was also production manager on Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo and directed a series of documentaries following two displaced Palestinian families.

In 2010 Sluizer was accused by Israel of a “modern blood libel” with his claims that he had witnessed the country’s then Defence Minister, and future Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, personally shooting two Palestinian children at close range during the Sabra-Shatilla massacre in 1982. µ

George Sluizer, film director: born Paris 25 June 1932; died Amsterdam 20 September 2014.