Alan Marshall Bella Edwards Bob Howourth Brian Davis Brenda Cook Carol Chilcott Claude Rimmer David Conn David Glover-Kirk David Parry-Jones David Scott David Talbot faustus group Jack Mundy Jacky Long Joan Clews Joan Goodyear John Vowles Kathy Stewart Kevin Hogan Lizzie Lane Lyn Martin Mary Lansdown Nicholas Selway Peter Sutton Richard Edwards Robert Chapman Robert Tooze Royston Tanner Sarah McGreevy Stephen Canaby This River Winding Tina Kelly Tom Hodson georgeT
more about the film cast & crew about the director planning script

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planning

Brenda about to pick a purple iris flower
Brenda wants to pick purple flowers

“I am wanting to be me,
When I was small
And picking the wrong flowers”
                                                - Brenda Cook

When Nicola planned this film she had to think about how Brenda’s poem, ‘The Wrong Flowers’ could best be adapted for the screen, and how the film could best convey Brenda’s experiences at school.

research with Brenda

Nicola, the film’s director, met with Brenda to find out more about her memories and feelings about her time at school. Nicola wrote the script after this discussion had taken place over several days. Here are some extracts from Brenda’s account;

‘Tapping of the watch on the teacher’s wrist is an important picture for the film.’

‘I was pushed out of school, and it all started with the teacher and her watch. This scene with teacher and watch is very important. Drew attention to me, made me different... I’d like to show the ganging up; being locked in the cellar; separation from my friends; taking colours away by sending me away to another school and leaving my education behind. It put me back. I’d like a little girl to play me when I was a little girl, picking wild flowers and in school when I (itchy uniform) had to wear uniform.’

The teacher tapping her watch
Miss Thomas taps her watch

‘….stop me getting on’... ‘A word is important to show what happens at school. For me it was about being stopped, a kind of death. Flowers make you feel so alive.’

‘Yes, I think I wanted to stop the adults from pinning me down; the teacher with her watch, my dad being over-protective, the man who looked over the gate, who guarded the private land / allotment, I wasn’t going to give up, but all the adults were determined to control.’

'‘‘I am wanting to be me,” means I wanted to write a poem about that time and remember what happened, explain what it was like, my understanding of what went wrong.’

about adaptation – notes by Nicola Williams

Nicola William’s account of decisions made about how she adapted the poem for film - particularly ways in which the themes of the poem are expressed visually.

disempowerment

In the schoolroom Brenda sticks white flowers into her book and the white flowers in the jam jar on the schoolroom. The small chink of white light in the shed is used to continue the theme of white for oppression and forced choices.

Visually throughout the film there is a strong point made where white flowers are swamping the purple irises and colour – the opening shot with the candles; the framing of white flowers that surrounds her in the studio; the white petals that fall onto her like snow. The season of winter reflected in this scene also has a subtext of stifled growth-oppression from everywhere, hence the juxtaposition with spring and Brenda’s ‘growth’ later on.

These images were developed to demonstrate the control of authority figures over Brenda. She wanted to pick the purple flowers but was not allowed to and was made to pick the white ones instead.

At the end in the fantasy woodland, spring flowers are used to show growth scattered among the white.  BUT the young Brenda is only picking the brightest purple flowers.

Brenda has a purple iris in her desk in Scene 8, which she shows to her friend Maureen. But does this incite another form of segregation by the children before the bullying? She was then set apart as all the other children’s flowers are white and hers were purple. She proudly paints the jam jar purple although she is only allowed to put white flowers in it.

Daisies in jars on a window sill
White flowers in the schoolroom

oppression

One of the issues that has become very important to me whilst writing this and working with Brenda, is the notion of oppression and its various forms of manifestations. I have tried to show the subtle oppression by bringing in the notion of flowers, seasons – hence confinement and growth through varying levels of freedom allowed to Brenda, relationships with her father, school, home etc. Here are some examples:

-White flowers smothering the purple – the white flowers can represent anything – people, institutions, rules – they are used constantly as a metaphor for confinement, rules and defined choices.

-Brenda & Father: A loving relationship, but overprotective although in a non-threatening loving way. He restricts where and who she can be play with, eg, Scene 3. We are all protective towards our young but this can sometimes be stifling and unproductive. I want to reflect this through their on-screen relationship, loving but unknowingly oppressive.

-Brenda on her own in garden – a shadow passing. The gate being shut off to her and the purple flowers in the garden in Scene 9. – oppression by doctors and institutions.

-The most obvious representation of oppression is the bullying in Scene 14  – but I do not want in anyway for this to be perceived as the only form of oppression in the film

-The scene in the shed

rules

Oppression can be seen simply as a set of rules, enforced by the teacher, that all the class has to follow. For example, Brenda must pick white flowers and stick them into the book. Choices are being removed by the teacher. In this detail, I think the film and Brenda’s story rings true for people in many different walks of life. We all suffer from some kind of rules and restriction – it is a universal story.

What stands out and makes this different is that Brenda always knew her own mind – she was determined, sticking to her love of colours and holding onto that whatever the obstacles. This is why I show her gathering the purple flowers in Scene16.

adding a character

I added Maureen after varying conversations with Brenda and thought it was good to show another dimension to Brenda and her childhood. It also is important, I feel, to show the separation of the two girls; again they had no choice in the matter – I did discuss the relevance of this with Brenda & she wanted this to be portrayed. 

I have played about with the time frame in the script to show the development of the story at school – this sometimes can be confusing on the written page – But the main crux of the action takes place in the central part of the script ie, Scenes 14, 15 16 17 18 and 20.  As with all films, sometimes this structure may be rearranged in the post- production if we feel the story does not flow.

growth

Flowers change through the seasons and represent growth and the passage of time. Purple flowers are significant because those are the flowers that Brenda wants. Here are some purple flowers that we thought of to represent the seasons:

Purple Flower Notes – symbolic / iconic of seasons

Early Spring: Crocus, Lilac, Tulips.

Aubretia flowers
Aubretia

Mid Spring: Anemone, Aubretia.

Alium flowers
Alium

Early Summer: Iris, Magnolia, Alium.

Clematis flower
Clematis

Mid Summer: Clematis, Pansies.

Hydrangea flower
Hydrangea

Autumn: Hydrangea, Japanese Maples, Sage, Smokebush.

Smoke bush plant
Smoke bush

Winter: Heather, Alpines.

Other places where growth is represented are:

-Autumn in Scene 12. This shows the end of the season, the end of school, onto new beginnings.

-Father takes Brenda out of school – apparently for her own good – but was it?  I think so because she went onto Marlborough House where she was allowed to grow in her own way – but the choice is made by teacher and father for ‘Brenda’s own good’. Scene 13 reflects Brenda’s feeling of isolation.

There is no resolution at the end, only happiness in the moment; the flowers falling and surrounding Brenda are subtext for the continuing choices that may or may not be hers.

There is further information about adaptation from text to screen in the Additional materials section.

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