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A scene from BRIDE FLIGHT (Photo: Music Box Films)

Directed by Ben Sombogaart
Produced by Anton Smit & Hanneke Niens
Written by Marieke van der Pol

Released by Music Box Films
Netherlands/Luxembourg. 130 min. Rated R
Anna Drijver, Karina Smulders, Elise Schaap, Waldemar Torenstra, Pleuni Touw, Petra Laseur, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Micha Hulshof & Rutger Hauer

Bride Flight is a rousingly old-fashioned romance of the pioneer spirit. Hopeful émigrés leave war and flood-ravaged Holland in 1953 and circumnavigate the globe to New Zealand at the glamorous dawn of international travel.

Black-and-white newsreels show an economically depressed country decimated by the North Sea Flood that killed almost 2,000 Dutch. (Director Ben Sombogaart’s 2002 Twin Sisters dealt with the war, and he has more recently made The Storm about the natural disaster.) Young people are leaving in droves, but one romantic venture catches the public’s fancy—the national airline’s participation in “The Last Great Air Race” from London to Christchurch. With 26 fiancées aboard planning to join new husbands they hardly knew, the press dubs this version of “The Flying Dutchman” as “The Bride Flight,” even following up with the emigrants for years. Screenwriter Marieke van der Pol incorporated their real stories (with more of her research from diaries and interviews expanded into a later novelization) to follow three composite women, first as they meet on the record-breaking trip of 37 hours and 30 minutes, then time-traveling back and forth between 1953, 50 years later, and in 1963. (Each period is filmed with a distinctive look.)

Before takeoff, Marjorie (Elise Schaap) poses for the many photographers and tries out her English as the first step in her optimistic plans for marriage, children, and a middle-class life. Ada (Karina Smulders), a shy, fundamentalist farmer’s daughter, nervously copes with her pregnancy that resulted from her one night of comforting a distraught flood survivor, and stylish Esther (former model Anna Drijver) is ambitiously determined to leave behind her Jewish family’s ghosts from the Holocaust. Joining them on the flight is hunky farmer Frank (Waldemar Torenstra), whose flirtatiousness belies a dark past in a Japanese internment camp. The stage is set for a modern version of William Wellman’s Westward the Women (1951), with bumpy storms and stops in such exotic places as Karachi substituting for Hollywood’s Rockies and Indian attacks. Each woman will face difficult circumstances in her bustling adopted land.

Five decades later, when the three women, now septuagenarians, are seen reacting to the news of the funeral of Frank (later played by Rutger Hauer in is his first Dutch feature film in over 25 years), the sly editing keeps teasing us as to which hopeful bride became which weathered woman. This reunion makes each one remember when she seized an opportunity to surmount dashed hopes and to reconsider her difficult choices, sacrifices, and regrets.

Gradually their lives and the continuing complicated connections to Frank, each other, and their Dutch roots are revealed in ways that are more emotionally involving and touchingly unpredictable than just melodramatic, though with a bit of sex and some soapy coincidences. Just in time for summer, Bride Flight offers American moviegoers an entertaining, yet classy, vacation trip through time and place. Nora Lee Mandel
June 10, 2011



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