Bride Flight (2008) is a haunting masterpiece that combines the strength of Dr. Zhivago with the ambiguity of The End of the Affair. The result is a psychological joyride of epic proportions.
Based upon the bestselling, novel of the same name, Bride Flight focuses upon three young Dutch women (Ada, Marjorie, and Esther) who marry by proxy and travel to New Zealand for their formal weddings. The year is 1953, and the women are part of a select group of emigrant-passengers chosen to travel aboard KLM, in the ‘Last Great Air Race’ from London to Christchurch, NZ. En-route, the three women and a particularly gallant young man seated nearby (Frank), happen to meet – and their lives inextricably bind forever.
Director Ben Sombogaart once again teams up with author/screenwriter Marieke van der Pol (Twin Sisters) to construct a cinematic life force. To do this, they build upon threads of intertwined (often silent) flashbacks. Such adventurous undertakings are chartered by the very few (Neil Jordan and Terrence Malick come to mind), mainly because it is far too easy to lose both plot and audience. Fortunately, Sombogaart is an old pro who artfully achieves narrative intensity in his film, and keeps viewers riveted to their seats.
Bride Flight is a drama about human relationships, romantic and otherwise. As such, it runs the risk of drowning in soap opera hell. Luckily, this never happens, thanks to a superb cast and a resilient script that allows viewers access into empty spaces where imaginations can run free. By implicating the viewer into the story in this way, Sombogaart has the freedom to decide which characters he will explore in-depth and those he will deliberately leave ambiguous. An example of this is the character of Esther (magnificently portrayed by Anna Drijver), whose struggle with the Jewish religion/God understandably, yet cryptically, defines her life).
Sombogaart’s use of romance in his human drama is more psychological bait than chick-flick sensation. He explores the deeper questions people think about, but too often push under the rug – such as when religious faith veers into superstition. He also investigates the more troubling aspects of human nature, such as secrecy and guilt, and when these slip into ‘acceptable’ sociopathic behavior passed on through generations.
Bride Flight was released on Region 1 DVD and Blu-rayin September 2011.
Amy R. Handler is a Boston-based film-maker, film scholar, writer and critic.