The Flower Beneath the Foot is a feature film based on Ronald Firbank‘s novel published under the same title in 1923. Just like the author was hoping for his Flower to be found ‘bafflingly fragrant’, our film is concerned not so much with a story as with its perfume.
Firbank’s novel unfolds in the invented land of Pisuerga, collaged together from places he grew to love on his extensive travels. Our Pisuerga will come together from landscapes and buildings found in Lithuania, Poland, and Italy. We open with an extensive scene set at Café Cleopatra, shot in the manner of silent cinema, the only type of film known to Firbank. Using intertitles and tinting we depict the glamour and fragility which Firbank often observed in high-class cafés and restaurants, together with snippets of conversation he is famous for capturing in his writing. We then show Kairoulla, the capital of Pisuerga, unfolding in a spiral of intrigue, starting from the Royal Family and moving through the court entourage, priests and nuns, all the way to the country’s flower-sellers and beggars. Buried in this throng is the story of Laura, one of the Queen’s maids. Despite prince Yousef’s affections for her, the Royal family expects him to marry princess Elsie of England. As Laura finds out about the arrangements of Yousef’s marriage (as well as his other love affairs), she is brought closer to the consolations found in the convent of the Flaming Hood. The film shows her torn between these two realms, personified by the Prince (Yousef) and the nun (Ursula).
Following Firbank’s obsession with design and texture, our film will have a mosaic- like structure. Our film is not only concerned with following the story and dialogue of the novel. We are taking Firbank’s various methods and bringing them into play: his collage of dialogues and situations, his luminous descriptions of nature, the suppression of plot, the construction of characters who seem like they may crack at the softest touch. Different elements of sound, moving image, and written word come together to create a cocktail of a film.
Firbank’s dialogues are intricate and ornamental, often with savage humour, digressions, and double entendres. His descriptions of nature capture the unruly, the well-mannered, and the manicured. His exploration of gay sexuality is often veiled and unspoken compared with the explicitness and openness we are used to nowadays. Nevertheless, he is undoubtedly an artist who pursued the subversive power of queerness. He also displays an almost zoological interest in the superficial and the unspoken, in camp, whim, and caprice.
With this first ever attempt to bring one of Firbank’s novels onto the screen, we want to bring his work to a new audience and to expose them to the pleasures and strangeness of his world.
K. Adamus, B. Bukantytė, R. Novaković
London, April 2017