“Only love and regret last forever…”
Have you seen any good Dutch movies lately? No? How about any films at all from The Netherlands – good or bad? What about films set in New Zealand?
I thought not. You can accomplish both tasks – seeing a Dutch film, and seeing a film shot in New Zealand simply by watching Bride Flight. Here’s the short description of the film from the Music Box Films Bride Flight website:
Bride Flight is a lavish romantic drama that charts the lives of three women who escape the gloom of post-WWII Holland for what they hope will be a better life in New Zealand. Ada, the shy but sensual farm girl, Marjorie, who dreams of a big family, and Esther, a Holocaust survivor who aspires to be a fashion designer, become fast friends during the long flight taking them to their waiting husbands, who have already settled in Christchurch [NZ].
Here’s an idea – Think of the timeless novel (and TV Mini-series) The Thornbirds and you’ll get a sense or idea of this film’s location, sweep, and dramatic force. Only without a priest, and not nearly as forceful, or good.
This is a film that has a very large canvas to tell the stories of three women and one man (he’s not mentioned in the blurb above, but trust me – he’s important). All of these people met on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to New Zealand with multiple stops along the way. It is 1953. No, the whole story is not about the flight…even though at the time, the flight itself was newsworthy. It was a part of what was called The Great Race. But it is on board this plane where we meet the foursome and the foundations of the story are set in motion.
There’s a flash-back apparatus in play early on. When the film opens, we are in the present day, and we meet an older man. He’s drives a jeep, has a big dog, wears outdoorsmen clothes, and a hat with a distinctive cowboy flavor to it. In fact, this man looks every bit of a modern-day cowboy. He’s the hugely successful owner of a big estate that is likely a sheep ranch producing wool as well as being a well-known vineyard. This is Frank Dee Roy and he’s played by Rutger Hauer.
Shortly after a new wine is launched at a tasting, we flash back to the post-war era in Holland, where the Dutch Airline, KLM, is set to launch a flight that would cover nearly half the globe.
On this flight we meet the same Frank Dee Roy only he’s 45 years younger. He’s the son of a Dutch doctor who worked and lived in Java (Indonesia) and who perished in the war. Frank is a young, good-looking man, and the women on the flight are attracted to him.
The first one is Esther, as described above, a Holocaust survivor. She’s haunted by the horrors of the war. If anything she’d prefer to let go of her Jewish heritage and begin a new life, as a fashion designer, in a new country, far way from the war. Of course, the man she is expecting to marry has the complete opposite plans.
He wants her to keep a Kosher home, keep the Jewish traditions, observe the holidays, say prayers, light the Sabbath candles, and bring up their children in a close-knit Jewish family. He does not see Esther in any roles other than homemaker, housewife, and mother.
The second of the girls is Marjorie. She’s a bit more of a mystery than the other two women. But we get a great vision about watch she wants for her future when we first meet the girls on the plane. Marjorie says that she hopes to have children and raise them with her husband in this country.
Plans have a way of making their own decisions and that means that often, the plans don’t work out.
The third girl is Ada. She’s the one sitting in the same row with Frank, We see immediately that despite the attractiveness of Marjorie and Esther, Frank can’t take his eyes off Ada. She’s alluring yet shy. She tells them all that she’s from farm stock. Or as we could say – she’s the farmer’s daughter.
She’s also never travelled very far. She’s never left Holland, so of course this is her first flight. On the leg of the flight that is heading to Karachi, Pakistan, they run into a patch of bad weather. Ada is terrified. When the plane finally touches down in Karachi, she simply has to get off the plane. It’s not the reason you think. She’s scared but it’s not of flying. As she runs off the plane, we hear – Don’t leave the plane unless you’re planning to live in Karachi.
Frank runs after her. Now it all becomes clear. Passion rears its head. The rush into each others arms. There’s one problem that Ada confesses after some ardent kisses with Frank. She’s already married!
Yes, married by proxy, and she’s only halfway to New Zealand.
I think that’s enough of a set up. Frank figures grandly in all of these women’s lives. Not just on the plane – but for years after.
I knew only the one actor, Rutger Hauer. He’s used in a way that’s kind of disappointing given his billing in the film. He’s the older Frank, but the film is more about what happened years ago, than what happens in the present. But realistically, that only means that unless you watch Dutch films on a regular basis, or live in The Netherlands, you won’t have a history with any of the actors and actresses. This adds to the realism of the film along with the period details in the costumes, the cars, because everything is new to the viewer. For me even New Zealand is new.
I like romantic dramas, but I’d usually opt for a mystery, or an action flick before selecting one from this category. On the other hand, I do like foreign films, I’ve no problem with subtitles, and I’ll be more than happy if the film is set someplace foreign or exotic. But speaking of subtitles, there’s a good amount of English spoken in the film. But this is to be expected – after all, English is the language used by New Zealanders.
While this film has the look of a film that didn’t skimp on costs – it has some issues. For example – there’s a bit too much of the flashback/flash forward, so we have to keep track of the three woman’s stories within their own marriages, and then again as they intersect in and around Frank, then once again as they come together as older women (played by other actresses) 45 years later.
It’s not really that difficult, and you will find that you can do it – but only if you pay attention. Their stories aren’t particularly unique either – at least once you get used to them being Dutch, and located in New Zealand.
But despite these short falls, and that most of the film is told from the women’s perspectives, I did get into it. I found it engrossing and vital. I liked the look of the film, and the women were quite attractive.
I’ll score it at three-point five on the one to five scale. The film is available as a DVD rental or via streaming from Netflix. Take a look at the trailer and you’ll know how good this will look on your TV.