Ever wondered what it would be like to smell nothing? ...hear nothing? …taste nothing? …see nothing? How about if all this happened at once? Perfect Senses is an original and touching story which endeavours to show us just this.
Susan (Eva Green) is a epidemiologist monitoring a mystery case patient who has lost his sense of smell. We soon learn that this is happening to people all over the world and, as the epidemic vastly spreads, people are gradually being deprived not only of their smell but one by one their other senses too. Before parting with each sense a person is first stricken with an outburst of emotion upheaval (profound grief before losing their smell, frantic hunger before losing their taste and so on…)
The film is shot well. Although the film is predominantly shot on location in
, projecting an unsettling ‘close-to-home’ feeling, Mackenzie uses a concoction of montages of worldwide images, news reels and voiceovers to depict the widespread chaos and anarchy in this uncontrollable apocalyptic world. Glasgow
Director David Mackenzie has undoubtedly created a beautifully unique picture different from other ‘end of the world’ depictions but, although it still neatly fits into the field of scientific fiction, the actual science behind the concept is weakly supported. There is no attempt made by Mackenzie to neither explain nor offer any theory into why or how this is happening and throughout the film the outbreak remains an unexplainable mystery; one which we see is hardly resisted but largely accepted by the population affected. It seems bizarre how we follow the life of a scientist (Susan) yet Mckenzie allows her character to show little interest or effort in trying to explore the illness or revive the population.
Similarly approached by Gareth Edwards’ in his 2010 Monsters, the focal direction of the plot instead lies in the passionate affair between the two central characters, Susan and talented chef, Michael. Meeting for the first time outside Michael’s restaurant just as the plague enters its first phase, the plot essentially follows the couple’s journey to survival as they slowly watch the world around them turn to disaster and disorder, as well as- at times- each other. Despite their ups and downs as we see the plague taking its toll, they learn how essentially all they need to survive are each other. Although this may seem like an all too familiar happy-ending romance story, Mckenzie effectively delivers a realistic depiction of humanity in desperation as it gradually dissolves into helplessness, crumbling into the hands of the merciless disease… and the conclusion isn’t quite as blissful and conclusive as one might expect.
If you go to the cinema with the expectations to see a well-informed apocalyptic sci-fi thriller like District 9 or The Day After Tomorrow you will be disappointed. However, if you let yourself engage with this beautifully executed spin on human relations in a time of turmoil, this really is a film worthy of a watch.