If you take movies and “turn them inside out” or “upside down” you can extract a deep education from them.
Think of the dimension of “economic botany” (i.e., plants and trees and shrubs and bushes and vines) which produce profitable or lucrative crops and think how one can look at many movies from an “economic botany” perspective when you decide to put the main plot or nominal story on the back-burner and bring forward the plant aspect.
Think of The Bounty, the 1984 version with Anthony Hopkins as “Bligh” and Mel Gibson as “Fletcher Christian.”
In the opening scenes of the movie, Bligh meets Fletcher Christian at some festive occasion, takes him aside and tries to recruit him for a voyage to Tahiti. He (Bligh) explains that the purpose of the voyage is to bring breadfruit seedlings from Tahiti to Jamaica because the cost of feeding the laborers or slaves is becoming prohibitive. They need to lower the subsistence costs in the Caribbean plantation system by the introduction of these seedlings (economic botany).
When the mutiny takes place, there’s a scene where some of the mutineers throw the breadfruit trees from Tahiti off their ship HMS Bounty, wangled off the King of Tahiti, into the ocean thus destroying the mission of that voyage.
In the movie The Hawaiians, the wealthy planter played by Charlton Heston, gets into a “mini-lecture” on pineapples and how they don’t originate in Hawaii, as people suppose, but were brought in by unknown sailor-settlers from distant South Sea islands.
“King Cotton” is a major player in many American movies since cotton and tobacco are among the mainstays of the Southern economy (think of Henry Fonda in Jezebel, set in the immediate pre-Civil War era).
Think of the French movie Indochine from 1992 which is based on colonial rubber crops and plantations:
“In 1930, marked by growing anticolonial unrest, Éliane Devries (Catherine Deneuve), a single woman born to French parents in colonial Indochina, runs her and her widowed father’s (Henri Marteau) large rubber plantation with many indentured laborers, whom she casually refers to as her coolies, and divides her days between her homes at the plantation and outside Saigon. After her best friends from the Nguyễn Dynasty die in a plane crash, she adopts their five-year-old daughter Camille (Ba Hoang, as child). Guy Asselin (Jean Yanne), the head of the French security services in Indochina, courts Éliane, but she rejects him and raises Camille alone giving her the education of a privileged European through her teens.” [from Wikipedia]
Coffee-growing, coffee storage, coffee prices on the world market, coffee bush vulnerabilities might be seen as the larger context of the 1985 movie Out of Africa and might be though to subsume the romantic “musical chairs” of the romantic story. Like the rubber in Indochine, the European colonial hold on the less developed world is the political context.
The Letter is a 1940 classic movie based on the novel by Somerset Maugham. Rubber-growing is at the center of the romantic story:
“On a moonlit, tropical night, the native workers are asleep in their outdoor barracks. A shot is heard; the door of a house opens and a man stumbles out of it, followed by a woman who calmly shoots him several more times, the last few while standing over his body. The woman is Leslie Crosbie, the wife of a British rubber plantation manager in Malaya; the man whom she shot is recognized by her manservant as Geoff Hammond, a well-regarded member of the European community. Leslie tells the servant to send for her husband Robert, who is working at one of the plantations. Her husband returns, having summoned his attorney and a British police inspector. Leslie tells them that Geoff Hammond ‘tried to make love to me’ and that she killed him to save her honor.” [from Wikipedia]
Sugar growing in the Caribbean and the ins and outs of annuities are at the core of several miniseries on TV based on Jane Austen novels such as Mansfield Park.
In other words, humanity and its plants are a deep theme of human as well as film history.
to make larger and deeper inferences as you sideline the romantic doings,
is part of making movies into a kind of “second university.”