Friday, July 8, 2011
Movie review: Bride Flight
It's an epic tale of passion and doomed romance — told in Dutch (with English subtitles).
In 1953, after catastrophic flooding in their home country of Holland, three women board a plane en route to New Zealand to start their lives anew. But this isn't an ordinary commercial flight: The KLM DC-6 on which they are passengers is participating in an air race, with the pilots and crew attempting to beat the existing fastest-flying time between London and Christchurch.
Ada (Karina Smulders), Marjorie (Elise Schaap), and Esther (Anna Drijver) each have prospective husbands waiting for them at the other end of their journey. But in the here-and-now, there's the attention of outgoing, ruggedly handsome Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) to keep them occupied. Shy, retiring Ada develops a particular attraction for him (and he for her), thanks to their seating proximity and the comforting attention he pays her while they fly through an alarming patch of turbulence.
While on the tarmac in Karachi to refuel, a terrified Ada bolts from the plane — and right into the arms of Frank, who's gone looking for her. They share a kiss. And thereby, in unexpected ways, their fates are sealed.
Director Ben Sombogaart's character-driven, soap operatic, 130-minute drama presents a time-hopping 50-year chronicle of the intertwined lives and loves of these four individuals. They will come to find themselves connected in surprising ways; some will go to their graves ignorant of the full extent of their connectedness.
The narrative picks up at the beginning of the end, as the Frank of today (Rutger Hauer, appearing in his first Dutch feature in more than 25 years) dies with his boots on. He's just celebrated the maturation of his latest vintage pinot noir, and is jeeping through the magnificent terrain of his vineyard — the focus of his life's work and passion — when a heart attack lays him low. Most of the remainder of the film story is devoted to fleshing out the eventful early backstories of the elderly characters who arrive to attend Frank's funeral, held at the wine producing operation he long ago christened Druifebloed (Dutch for "blood of grapes").
In flashback, we learn what kind of fiancees awaited our three brides-to-be upon their long-ago arrival in New Zealand. Esther, who aspires to fashion design stardom, soon dispenses with her lackluster beau, whose attempts to woo her fall more under the category of applying reins and blinders. Ada, while pining for Frank, nonetheless goes through with her marriage to Derk (Micha Hulshof) — a dour, humorless, and dangerously devout Presbyterian. Only Marjorie seems well-pleased with her new life partner; but she and Hans (Mattijn Hartemink) will experience a life-altering trauma in the course of becoming new parents.
A regular Peyton Place of a storyline develops in which one woman has a child out of wedlock, one has an extramarital affair, and one raises the illegitimate son of one of the others. (Frank plays a central role in each of these events.)
Bride Flight is full of passion, beauty, and tragedy — of the forlorn love variety. As Ada, the film's most sympathetic character, Karina Smulders turns in a courageous performance that highlights her sensitivity and smoldering sensuality. (She delivers one of the film's most memorable monologues while standing naked in front of a window. Just don't ask me to recall what she actually said...) Anna Drijver, as Esther, impresses equally as a lonely free spirit who spends the better part of her life keeping the most intimate of secrets from someone she loves. For her part, Elise Schaap has the unenviable task of turning the character of Marjorie into a fearful, emotionally cruel custodian of the same secret kept by Esther.
Looking to spice up your art house film viewing agenda with a dash of Harold Robbins-style naughtiness? Bride Flight might be just the ticket.
WELL, ALMOST EVERYTHING: "They're relaxed here about everything. 'Laid back,' they call it." - Marjorie
RELATIONSHIP KISS OF DEATH: "You have so much energy. Devote it to a higher cause." - Esther's devout fiancee, to Esther
To find movie showtimes for Bride Flight, click here.