Yorgos Lanthimos makes some odd films. I was intrigued by his 2015 film The Lobster but waited to see it when it was available for streaming because I heard it was good, but very weird. (I tend to avoid movies with emotionally charged violence and extreme pathos, because FEELINGS.) I don’t know if I enjoyed it, exactly, but it was an interesting experience. (If you haven’t seen it, the plot is basically this: marriage is a requirement, to the point that single people have to go to a sort of hotel and find a mate within a certain period of time, or they will be turned into an animal of their choice; hence the title. The main character escapes the hotel and lives with rebels in the forest, who have gone the other way and banned any and all romantic intimacy.)
So last night it was appropriate for me to wear a perfume inspired by The Lobster to see Lanthimos’ latest movie, The Favourite. This one has less social horror in it, or shall we say the social horror is presented through a specific historical lens, that of the reign of Queen Anne of England in the early 1700s. Interestingly, both movies feature moments of animal cruelty, which I always find difficult to bear, even if I know it is only happening on a scree. And the one in The Favourite is not as bad as in The Lobster, but it still made me very uncomfortable.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that my overall impression of The Lobster (the perfume) is one of green harshness that barely abates through the dry down. The notes are listed as lily of the valley, leaves, cypriol, water, cedar wood, myrrh, arnica, fenugreek, animal notes, humus, and moss—this correlates with the action in the second half of the movie, which takes place in a forest. Yet while these scents would seem on paper to be soothing and earthy, my overall impression was one of an almost metallic artificiality—something that should be pleasant but for some reason, just isn’t.
I kept waiting for the scent to change into something more laid-back, but it never did. I didn’t even notice any change over time—it’s like all the notes are just blaring at you incessantly, losing only volume as it fades.
It’s an odd fragrance—very cerebral. This could be on purpose, in that the perfume makers (Folie a Plusieurs, who have series of scents based on cult, classic, independent, and contemporary movies) are making a statement that reflects the message of the movie—love, which is supposed to be enjoyable, or at least something that enriches life, isn’t when it is either artificially enforced or banned. The marriages that we see result from the required matchmaking in the hotel are awkward and unnatural—kind of like this perfume.
If this is in fact the concept of this fragrance, it seems to be a successful one, intellectually speaking. However, smells by their very nature appeal to an ancient and even primitive part of our brains—more so than any other sense. In this way, the perfume is a failure, because scents are at their best when they tap into those mysterious sources hidden in our neurons. When a scent only arouses thoughts in our conscious brain, it is something lesser. An amusing exercise, nothing more.