How Scent Guides Our Visual Appreciation, A Journey With Diptyque At Metrograph
Imagine yourself sailing on a traditional junk through the shallow waters of Vietnam’s world-renowned Hạ Long Bay, flanked by towering lotus leafs. The magnificent limestone mountains cast a vivid blue reflection on the emerald waters that formed a thousand years ago. The sweet, floral-scented blossoms of tuberose awakens our senses and deepens our appreciation of the otherworldly environment.
During a recent viewing at Metrograph, New York City’s preeminent arthouse cinema on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, we were whisked away on the multisensory journey inspired by the enviable and unusual childhood summers of Yves Coueslant, one of luxury Parisian fragrance brand Diptyque‘s three founders.
Coueslant, who died in 2013, borrowed from his boyhood memories to compose a unique perfume, Do Son. A short animated film of the same name by Parisian studio Werlen Meyer, renowned for its work with Wes Anderson and Stromae, depicts Coueslant as a child exploring the small peninsula formed by the stretch of Rong Mountain to the sea. Mountain ranges and pine forests make the beach a rare gem in the tropical region.
Experiencing the fragrance enhanced and elevated the experience. Our noses linger on top notes of African orange flower, iris, and rose, shifting to middle notes of tuberose and pink pepper, and settling on base notes of benzoin and musk. Metrograph itself is a cinematic time traveling adventure, where state-of-the-art collides with Hollywood’s heyday, showcases films that nimbly straddle the sublime and the subversive.
In one scene, we encounter a representation of Coueslant’s mother sitting beneath a pagoda, gazing at the sea and the horizon in the distance. She fancied flowers, particularly cây hoa huê, the heady, slightly spicy tuberose which, combined with orange blossom, jasmine and the marine accord, comprises the complexity of Do Son.
The film, which features a soundtrack by James Blake, a multi-award winning singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer from London, transports us to another place and time.
Scents circumvent the thalamus and go directly to our olfactory bulbs above each nasal cavity, which are connected to the amygdala and hippocampus. For this reason, scents can immediately trigger a complex memory or a powerful feeling. We may associate aromas with events, people, or places, and certain imagery and sounds may evoke fragrance.
Hạ Long Bay (sometimes anglicized as Halong Bay) features thousands of limestone karsts, and some 2,000 islands and islets. It draws around 2.58 million tourists every year, but was far less known to the outside world before it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.