Bride Flight: Film Review

This Dutch melodrama compels despite its formulaic elements.

The sort of sweeping romantic saga rarely attempted on our shores these days, the Dutch film Bride Flight should well please art house audiences.

NEW YORK — Imagine a European version of the sort of soapy weepie that would have starred Bette Davis and Clark Gable had it been made in Hollywood decades ago, and you have Bride Flight. One of the most expensive films ever made in the Netherlands, it is also notable for the brief appearance by Rutger Hauer, his first in a Dutch feature in over twenty-five years.

The sort of sweeping romantic saga rarely attempted on our shores these days, Bride Flightshould well please art house audiences, especially of older females, starved for this sort of old-fashioned fare. Marieke van der Pol’s screenplay is overly convoluted as it careens across several decades, crammed with superfluous scenes, yet it does manage for the most part to remain believable. At the heart of the film beats a love story that begins in 1953 when the dashing young Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) boards a record-breaking flight from London to New Zealand. Inspired by an actual event dubbed the “bride flight,” the plane is crowded with Dutch women traveling to be reunited with fiancés and husbands.

Among them are three young women whose lives would intersect with Frank over the decades: Jewish fashion designer Esther (Anna Drijver); Marjorie (Elise Schaap), whose husband awaits her; and Ada (Karina Smulders), pregnant and married to a man she has met only once.

During the long, tumultuous flight, Ada and Frank fall in love. Upon arrival though, she dutifully reconnects with her husband (Micha Hulsof), a strictly religious Christian. She will bear him three children.

Years later, Ada, trapped in a loveless marriage, impulsively abandons her husband and children to be with Frank, with predictably tragic results.

The overly convoluted screenplay awkwardly inserts numerous scenes throughout depicting elderly versions of the characters (Hauer plays the older Frank), which only serve to pad the running time to a stodgy 130 minutes.

Despite its overly melodramatic plot elements, the emotional dynamics of the film directed by Ben Sombogaart are admirably restrained. And despite a contrived ending that glosses over decades of animosities, the proceedings mostly stay on an even keel.

Fueling the power of the central love story are highly appealing performances by the two leads. Torenstra makes a dashing leading man, effortlessly combining macho sex appeal with emotional depth, while the beautiful Smulders is deeply sympathetic as the tortured Ada. When their characters finally consummate their love after a decade of longing, the sex scene carries genuine heat.

Opened: June 10 (Music Box Films)
Production: IDTV Film
Cast: Karina Smulders, Elise Schapp, Anna Drijver, Waldemar Torenstra, Rutger Hauer, Pleuni Touw, Petra Laseur, Willede van Ammelrooy, Mattijn Hartemink
Director: Ben Sombogaart
Screenwriter: Marieke van der Pol
Producers: Anton Smit, Hanneke Niens
Director of photography: Piotr Kukla
Production designer: Michel De Graaf
Costume designer: Linda Bogers
Music: Jeannot Sanavia
Editor: Herman P. Koerts
Rated R, 130 minutes