A rose, with red petals and prickly thorns, is both the symbol of love and of strength and resistance. In 1986 the United States adopted the rose as its official national flower. Around the White House, for example, is the famous Rose Garden, and the rose appears in the emblem of several states.
The short film Rose Garden by Keren Cytter also clearly shows the symbols of the US, and American rural culture in particular. American flags. References to the Wild West. Bud Light logos. A couple walks into a bar called Rose Garden, accompanied by the sinister sound of a flute like in a Wild West film, which indicates that, although everything looks normal, something is about to happen.
The name of the bar, Rose Garden, also appears in the poster ‘we don’t promise you a Rose Garden’, referring to the 1964 book I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg, that tells the story of a teenage girl struggling with schizophrenia in post-war America. This book put an end to the prejudice that schizophrenia is a split personality, but describes it as living and suffering in another world.
In the world of the Rose Garden bar in Keren Cytter’s film, everything seems to go smoothly. Yet there is the menacing music. The many guns people carry with them. And the ominous ‘everyday’-sounding dialogue, between different characters who seem to know each other, but not at all. The conversations are intertwined and yet somehow – by the location, by the relationship between these people? – connected to each other. Even the TV in the corner of the bar seems to contribute to the conversation.
And then, inevitably with so many guns, the first shot falls. The bar lady shoots at the TV, and after the bang the bar falls silent for a moment. ‘F Europe,’ she says. She puts her gun down and continues what she was doing. Exactly at that moment we see for the first time the flute player at the other end of the bar, playing the sinister music. It’s a touched man, like a character from a Western. ‘Life in the wild can be harmful as hell,’ says one of the guests.
What follows is a shooting, which alternates with the normal course of events in the Rose Garden, like it’s nothing exceptional going on. The last image is a child, that has tried to walk out of the Rose Garden and lies dead on the front doorstep.