For years, directors and creators have relied on roses to tell a story in ways that words never could. While you may assume roses just symbolize love and romance, storytellers have long used the rose as a metaphor for everything from lust to destruction and rebirth. Below are some of our favorites films and stories where roses play an important role.
It’s hard to watch American Beauty and not stare in awe at the use of roses throughout the film – filling bathtubs, on the coffee table and growing outside of the house. Initially, it appears as though roses represent love, lust and passion. While that may be true, the rose has been said to hold a deeper meaning in the film. Based on the tagline “Look closer,” it’s believed that roses symbolize the decay of American suburban life – as the films main (and married) character, Lester Burnham, begins to fantasize about being with his daughter’s best friend. The roses used for the film were chosen specifically because they are susceptible to rot, mirroring the family that began pure and whole, but is now falling apart.
We learn at the end of the film that Kane’s dying word “Rosebud” is not actually a rose at all, but the name of his favorite childhood sled. It’s said the sled represents simplicity, warmth and his mother’s love. Sledding as a child in Colorado was the last time he was truly happy, which was why he wanted to be buried with Rosebud.
The Enchanted Rose quickly became the trademark symbol of the Beauty and the Beast film after viewers we captivated by its beauty and purpose. The rose represents fate and physical beauty – as the Beast (originally a human) is turned into a monster after rejecting an elderly woman in need. The tale said that if the Beast did not learn to love someone else before the last petal fell on his twenty-first birthday, he would remain like that forever.
V for Vendetta
In this complicated, futuristic thriller, antagonist and vigilante “V” is the only person able to cultivate roses that were thought to be extinct. Though he leaves these roses next to the men and women he has killed, he initially cares and tends to them almost as if they are his children – representing both destruction and prosperity. In the end, all he hopes for is that “the world turns and that things get better, and that one day people have roses again.”
Alice in Wonderland
When the cards accidentally plant white roses instead of red, they fear incurring the wrath of the Queen of Hearts, who only likes red roses. As they paint, they famously sing, “We’re painting the roses red. We dare not stop or waste a drop. So let the paint be spread!” It is believed that the white roses represent purity, innocence and serenity – Alice’s life prior to falling down the rabbit hole. But once she enters Wonderland, she was forced to mature and enter into adulthood.
The Little Prince
This popular novella has quickly become the fourth most-translated book in the world. After a pilot becomes stranded in the desert, he comes across a young prince who fell to Earth from a tiny asteroid. The book features watercolor illustrations done by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. One of the most famous illustrations is of the Little Prince lying in a field of a thousand roses. It’s said the roses represents all of the past choices, friendships and loves that he left behind on the asteroid. We see that these roses resemble the one the Little Prince used to have on his planet. That was the flower he watered, nourished and cared for. In the words of the fox, he “tamed” her – and “for what you have tamed, you become responsible for.”