Work with flowers every day and you’ll never watch a film in the same way again. American Beauty – red roses. The Wizard of Oz – orange poppies. Last Tango in Paradise – purple hydrangeas. The Great Gatsby – white orchids. Memoirs of a Geisha – cherry blossom. Then you’ve got that spindly two-leafed stem in WALL-E, those painted white roses in Alice in Wonderland and the bright yellow sea of daffodils in Big Fish. Some of the most emotionally torn and aesthetically beautiful moments in film are brought to life not with actors but flowers. Here are some of our other favorite flowers-in-film moments.
You don’t have to be a student of film history to notice that flowers are a recurring motif in Vertigo. Made in 1958 by grandaddy of film Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo opens with Madeleine entering a floristry – Podesta Baldocchi, back then one the oldest operating florists in San Francisco and still delivering today – packed with beautiful blooms. The fragile-looking bouquet she buys turns out to represent her character. Later in the movie, falling apart, she tears her flowers to shreds.
‘He May Be a Killer, But He’s Such a Sweetie’ ran a New York Times headline in 1994. The article was reviewing Leon: The Professional, and articulated one of the main themes that made the film so interesting to so many – that a supposedly cold-blooded murderer could also be a gentle, childlike soul that liked drinking milk, sitting beneath a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his apartment and – the camera most insistently – spending so much time lovingly tending to a potted plant. Every day, he sprays water on his aglaonema, or Chinese evergreen, and wipes them down – presumably to prevent dust from enabling the plant to photosynthesise properly! A good example for us all.
Ben Affleck’s 2010 thriller The Town features the brutal manipulator, drug dealer, heist planner – and florist – Fergie brilliantly played by Pete Postlethwait. The character is based on the notorious Irish-American mobster Dean O’Banion, who ran a successful, real-life floristry in Chicago as a front for his criminal activities. Until his death in 1924, however, he always insisted that his greatest love was floral arrangement, for which he had a genuine passion and talent.
American Beauty, DreamWorks Pictures, 1999
Vertigo, Paramount Pictures, 1958
Léon: The Professional, Les Films du Dauphin, 1994
The Town, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2010