In his 1993 film, Three Colours Blue, the late Krzysztof Kieslowski makes bold use of a familiar cinematic device. At key moments in the plot, just when the audience feels they will finally be allowed into the innermost thoughts of the protagonist, Julie, the screen fades to black. In itself, this isn’t usual – the ‘fade to black’ has long been used to mark the end of a scene and the start of a new one. But in Blue, when the image fades back into view again, the action hasn’t moved on. The scene is still the same as it was before the fade to black.
The effect is disorientating. The audience feels lost, unable to make sense of this apparent rupture in the space-time framework of the story. The technique drives home many points, not least about the limits of the audio-visual format of cinema. The suggestion seems to be that complete intimacy is an illusion – we may think we can enter into someone else’s experience, but ultimately, this isn’t possible. We reach out, but all we’re faced with is a void. An absence of light.
It is at this point that perfume could perhaps take over. Much has been made of olfactory art’s ability to evoke visceral responses, and while the power of this ability has perhaps been overstated at times, there is no doubt that it exists.
Perfume is the only art-form that literally enters our bloodstream. When we inhale olfactory components, they invade our bodies and, for a while, flow through us. If we could smell the ‘fade to black’ in Three Colours Blue – if we could absorb it into our physiology – what sorts of sensations would open themselves up to us?
It is questions like this that perfumery asks time and time again. Questions which, when tackled by people with the right talents and perseverance, sometimes yield startling answers. Through smell, perfume brings us closer to a shared experience of loss, of realisation, of longing, of hope, of liberty. It fills the spaces that other art-forms cannot approach and must necessarily leave as a silent, empty void. It is the meaning that we can sometimes find in the deepest blackness.
Folie À Plusieurs
FRAGRANCE ARCHIVE 2015 – 2018
“Le Cinéma Olfactif” fragrance releases and olfactive film screenings