Ben Sombogaart • Director
"A romantic and involving epic"
- Reuniting with the team of his 2003 Oscar-nominated film came easy to the director
Dutch director Ben Sombogaart became famous for his films and TV work aimed at children, but his 2002 dramaTwin Sisters, nominated for an Oscar, proved he could hold his own as a director of crowd-pleasing melodramas. The same team behind that success story has now reunited for Bride Flight [+see also:
interview: Ben Sombogaart
interview: Hanneke Niens
Cineuropa: Bride Flight is an original screenplay. How was the project developed?
Ben Sombogaart: Producer Anton Smit saw the original cinema newsreel about the 1953 Bride Flight and asked researcher Ross Fraser to look for more material and there turned out to be plenty. Journalists covered the flight extensively and did follow-up pieces in the following years.
IDTV Film asked Marieke van der Pol to write the screenplay, and around the same time I was asked to direct. Marieke, producers Anton Smit and Hanneke Niens, and DoP Piotr Kukla and I had already done Twin Sisters, so it was an easy decision.
How would you characterise the appeal of the film?
Bride Flight is a romantic and involving epic for a large audience. For older people, the times and events depicted will be recognizable, while younger viewers will be taken by experiences of the 20-something protagonists. One of the most important themes is confronting the past. Esther's family, of Jewish descent, was killed in WWII; Frank lost his family in Japan during the same war; and the family of Derek, Ada's husband, did not survive the floods of 1953. All try to escape from the past, but eventually the past will catch up with all of them. The film explores how people try to make something of their lives despite all their problems.
How did the shoot in New Zealand go?
We shot on both North Island and South Island, and the distances are huge. Cast and crew flew from one location to the other, but all other material was transported by lorry at night, like a circus. We had to shoot on many different locations because there is almost nothing left from the fifties and sixties. The country is still young and does not protect its heritage. Each time we arrived somewhere, local journalists and people who been on the Bride Flight would come to the set, which made us realize that what we were doing was right, and that these stories really happened.
The large cast, with young and old actors playing the same characters in the 1950s and ‘60s and today must have been difficult…
It was complicated. We did not only want talented actresses, but also three women that did not look alike but would work well together. Then, for the 70-year-olds, we had to find actresses that also looked like the girls. For the young ones, we tested at least ten different people for each role. In the end, most of the actors have personalities that are similar to the roles they play.
Karina Smulders is the most experienced actress and has both the sensuality and the melancholy that is perfect for Ada. Elisa Schaap, as Marjorie, has the same stubbornness and humour, while Anna Drijver, a former model, is interested in fashion just like Esther. Waldemar Torenstra, as the only guy, combines an enormous charisma with mystery and vulnerability, and Rutger Hauer has that rugged Marlboro Man look as well. He is in the film only very briefly, but he has such presence that it casts a shadow over the rest of the film.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.