Film takes viewers on journey to New Zealand in post-WWII romance

Marjorie (Elise Schaap) poses in her wedding dress, while budding fashion designer Esther (Anna Drijver), who customized it mid-flight, looks on in pink and white polka-dot dress, in a scene from ‘Bride Flight.’


“Bride Flight” takes us along on the journey of four attractive young people, three women and a man, leaving post-World War II Holland to restart their lives in New Zealand. The film features an appealing cast and lush photography in a romantic tale set against a historic backdrop. The Dutch film won several audience favorite awards at film festivals, including the Audience Choice award at the Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival.

The four meet aboard a Dutch plane, racing to set a 1946 speed record to New Zealand. The KLM Airlines flight has been dubbed “the bride flight” for its passenger list, which is heavy with young Dutch women escaping war-ravaged Europe to meet fiancés or husbands who have emigrated already.

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Esther (Anna Drijver), Marjorie (Elise Schaap), Ada (Karina Smulders) and Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) form a lifelong bond on the flight, on their way to pursue their dreams in a new land. Ambitious, gifted and beautiful Shoah survivor Esther, who lost her family in the Nazi concentration camps, dreams of starting her own fashion design company.  She is meeting her fiancé, another survivor, in New Zealand.

Traditional Marjorie plans a big family and is thrilled when Esther quickly improves her wedding gown mid-flight. Outgoing, handsome Frank strikes up a friendship with all three women but is especially drawn to shy, curvy blonde farm girl Ada.  Frank, who lost his colonist family in a Japanese concentration camp, has big agri-business ambitions for his new homeland. Although the new friends part ways shortly after arriving, charismatic Frank becomes the link that keeps them connected throughout their lives.

Set in 1946, this film is like an old-fashioned Hollywood woman’s picture of that era — polished, pretty and romantic — but its attractive female cast and some steamy love scenes offer appeal for guys as well. The cast and the equally beautiful New Zealand landscape are all showcased by lovely cinematography by Piotr Kukla. The strong visuals and the appealing performances go a long way in selling this melodramatic tale. 

Although the film’s flight takes place in 1946, it was inspired by the real 1953 “Last Great Air Race” from London to Christchurch, which was won by a Dutch KLM airliner carrying 40 immigrants to New Zealand. Journalists were aboard that flight and many followed the progress of the immigrants over the years. Their stories became the inspiration for this drama, with many details of their real lives woven into the tale.

All the women confront surprises upon landing. Flamboyant Esther arrives in stylish attire but is met by criticism from her fiancé, who finds her dress too immodest to meet the rabbi. Having re-discovered his Jewish faith, her fiancé wants Esther to embrace traditional life and gender roles. Marjorie finds her once-elegant husband to be working as a laborer. Ada faces a long, hard trip to a remote area.

The vistas of New Zealand offer a perfect setting for this sweeping romance. The story is told in flashback, as the now-aging Esther (Willeke van Ammelrooy), Marjorie (Petra Laseur) and Ada (Pleuni Touw) gather for the funeral of Frank (Rutger Hauer), who had become a successful winery owner. The long timeline, historic setting and New Zealand’s natural beauty seem aimed to give the film an epic feel but at its heart this is a romance, packed with secrets, jealousies, betrayals and forbidden love.

The film’s major shortcoming is director Ben Sombogaart’s device of jumping back and forth in time. Periodically returning to the older friends in the present adds little to the characters and mostly detracts from the more interesting historic tale.

Despite its melodramatic leanings, “Bride Flight” is a crowd-pleaser. It is a chick flick deluxe, with buxom beauties, fiery passions and lush scenery. All one needs to make the viewing experience complete is a glass of chardonnay and plush sofa on which to nestle.

‘Bride Flight’

Rated: R for nudity, sex, profanity

Running Time: 2:10

Opens: Friday, June 24 at Plaza Frontenac Cinema

Language: English and Dutch with English subtitles