An immigrant's life elsewhere
by Adriaan Pietersz
- Ben Sombogaart's Dutch historical epos looks at immigrants from a different point of view, casting the Dutch as immigrants in 1950s New Zealand
Contemporary Dutch cinema caught up with the times a couple of years ago, when the multicultural potpourri seen on Dutch streets every day could finally also be found on screen in such comedy hits as Shouf shouf habibi! and Schnitzel Paradise [+see also:
interview: Martin Khoolhoven
interview: Mimoun Oaïssa
film profile]. But after these corrective first efforts, Dutch filmmakers are now turning towards more subtle explorations of the immigrant experience, and are moving from comedy to drama.
Mijke de Jong's Katia's Sister [+see also:
film profile] explores the life of the younger sister of a Russian prostitute in Amsterdam, while the children's films Winky's Horse [+see also:
film profile] and its sequel subtly explore what it means to be a Chinese immigrant child when the über-Dutch Saint Nicholas celebrations are coming up.
Director Ben Sombogaart takes things one step further in his ambitious drama Bride Flight [+see also:
interview: Ben Sombogaart
interview: Hanneke Niens
film profile]: it casts the native Dutch as immigrants in another country. The historical film tells the story of three women and one man, who meet on the titular flight in 1953, part of an air race between London and New Zealand. It got its nickname because it carried many women who were engaged to be married, and who would be reunited with their future spouses in their new homeland.
In 1953, the country still suffered from the aftermath of WWII and large parts of the southwest were flooded in February of that year in one of the country's biggest natural disasters of the twentieth century. Many people moved to the New World, hoping for a better future.
Ada (Karina Smulders), from a religious family, was forced to marry after discovering she was pregnant by a boy she barely knows. The Jewish Esther (Anna Drijver) wants to leave behind the demons of her past and her murdered family and hopes to be a fashion designer. Marjorie (Elise Schaap) dreams of a big family in New Zealand but gets homesick and finds out she can't have children. Franck (Waldemar Torenstra), a happy-go-lucky playboy, wants to make his own wine.
Bride Flight was made by the same team behind the Oscar-nominated war drama Twin Sisters, and it shows. Though screenwriter Marieke van de Pol did not have a bestselling novel to work from, she did use research done by producer Anton Smit to hammer out a first draft before travelling to New Zealand to meet Dutch men and women who moved there in the 1950s. Many of their amazing stories - including a couple that converted a WWII bunker into a house - are included, though the four protagonists are fictional creations.
Also like Twin Sisters, the film moves back and forth in time, with several scenes set in the present alternating between scenes set in 1953 and 1963. Veteran Dutch actresses Willeke van Ammelrooy (the matriarch of the Oscar-winning Antonia's Line), Pleuni Touw and Petra Laseur play the three ladies in their seventies. They are reunited at the funeral of Franck (played by Rutger Hauer, in a cameo), the one man who ties their different stories together. One thing is clear: immigrants want the same right to happiness as everybody else.