One of my favourite films is Luc Besson’s 1997 futuristic sci-fi ‘The Fifth Element’ – a look at the future through a French lens. I love everything about this film, from the Jean Paul Gaultier-designed costumes to Chris Tucker’s bizarre, yet engaging performance as a camp and sexually confusing radio-host. I even don’t mind the sight of Bruce Willis in a vest (Gaultier, of course), but that’s a less important fact, and one that I’m sure you will judge me for later.
I watched the film recently and whilst delving into Besson’s pre-apocalyptic vision of the future, my mind turned to perfume, as it so often does. If you’ve not watched The Fifth Element, firstly shame on you, but secondly, it is essentially a film about saving the world by gathering together the four fundamental elements (earth, water, wind and fire), along with the elusive fifth element (Milla Jovovich) to create the Divine Light and destroy the Great Evil. Sounds pretty fab, huh?
My mind was thinking hard about which fragrances are good representatives of the four elements, and which could be seen under the headings of; earth, water, wind and fire. I therefoure thought I would compile this very list (I like lists) of perfumes that perfectly capture the nature of the four elements. Also, because I’m a generous soul, I’ve thrown in an olfactory ode to the fifth element for good measure. So, grab your multi passes, folks, we’re going on a fragrant tour of Space and the Earth.
It may seem that picking Hermès’ Terre d’Hermes (2006) as a my scent to represent the element of earth, is a bit of a cop out. After all, it is a perfume named after and inspired by earth. The truth is however, that no other fragrance captures the essence of ‘terre’ so accurately and evocatively. It is the smell of dry desert sands, of dense sandstorms and cool, mineral-filled grit.
The nose (and brains) behind Terre d’Hermès was Jean-Claude Ellena, Hermès in-house perfumer, and with this fragrance he created a fragrance that is planted solidly in the ground. At first, it speaks of sharp fruits – oranges and grapefruits – but quickly, it takes on a multitude of textures from sweet/dusty wood, to a pasty undercurrent of flinty mud. Terre d’Hermès is a raw and all-encompassing experience that is as solid as the ground beneath one’s feet, and as beautiful as the sky above one’s head.
Water is Mother Nature’s most refreshing, cleansing and healing force. It can also be one of her most destructive. Water has immense power over life, having the ability to both sustain and take it. Despite its unpredictable and tumultuous character, I have chosen to focus on the more positive and clarifying facets of nature’s most powerful force – that of cool summer rain.
This year, quintessentially British perfume brand, Jo Malone, launched a quartet of London-rain inspired fragrance, one of which, namely Rain & Angelica (2014), embodies the refreshing and purifying feel of a sudden downpour. Rain & Angelica is the olfactory equivalent of glassy beads of water as they drop from the heavens. It captures a sweet kind of rain that is crystalline in nature and exudes coolness and a divine sense of calm. Water may be powerful, but in Rain & Angelica it trades force for purity.
Out of the four elements, wind is the hardest to scent. Many fizzy and air-filled aldehyde perfumes go a long way to capture the idea of wind, but very few truly create an impression that is aerial. One fragrance that is entirely ‘of the air’ is Van Cleef & Arpels’ California Rêverie – a white floral inspired by jasmine, the very essence of the Californian countryside.
The jasmine used in California Rêverie is so light and so diffusive that it really does feel air born. It gives the impression of the heady scent of jasmine carried on the warm Californian breeze – an air that is alive with the singing scent of flowers and the lively sound of bees carrying humungous loads of fresh pollen. This perfume isn’t a tornado, nor is it a blustering wind from the sea, instead it is a summer breeze packed to the brim with floral beauty.
Fire is more than just flames. It is the heat. The kinetic energy of the reaction. The crackle and the soft glow of the embers. It burns, it radiates and it flickers, and moves with great speed. What fragrance captures such an all-encompassing element? The answer is simple: Amouage’s wonderful and surprising Interlude Man – a fragrance that burns with the heat of a thousand fires.
Interlude Man’s fuel is a scorching hot note of birch tar that is smoky, bitter and leathery. It burns and glows with both flames and embers, swirling with heavy plumes of creamy vanilla smoke. Like the element, this fragrance is raw and carnal, and it’s also extremely sexy – which makes sense when you think about it, because there’s nothing more hot and sexy than fire.
But what of ‘The Divine Light’ – The Fifth Element? A perfume to save the world and bring light to the darkest corners of the planet. A perfume that is strong enough to defeat the evil onslaught of the celebrity fragrances invasion and bring hope to lesser fragrant beings. A perfume with an extra terrestrial connection – an otherworldly scent that feels of the earth, born in flame, carried by water and scattered across the sky.
Have you guessed what it is yet? The olfactory ‘Divine Light’ is of course, Alien by Thierry Mugler – a fragrance that I regularly bang on about, but fits the bill as a space-age jasmine that brings something entirely new to the fragrance industry. Alien has the power to vanquish the depressing elements of the perfume world, and it does so in a high-fashion manner that would perfectly compliment the futuristic landscapes and couture of The Fifth Element. Saving the world never looked, and smelled, so fabulous.
Image 1 via thehollywoodnews.com. Image 2 via unrealitymag.com. Image 3 via uk.hermes.com [edited]. Image 4 via selfridges.co.uk [edited]. Image 5 via fragrantica.com [edited]. Image 6 via ambrozja.com [edited]. Image 7 via parisgallery.com [edited].