Der Duft Cinematic (Miguel Matos) Fragrance Review, first published in Cafleurebon
“Words are made for a certain exactness of thought, as tears are for a certain degree of pain. What is least distinct cannot be named; what is clearest is unutterable.” René Daumal (1908-1944), French surrealist writer and poet
The simplest definition for ekphrasis is the verbal description of a visual art object – like a painting or a sculpture. In ancient times though, it referred to a description of any object, person, or experience – essentially putting into words what is usually observed or captured with our eyes. The word comes from the Greek ἐκ ek and φράσις phrásis, ‘out’ and ‘speak’ respectively, and the verb ἐκφράζειν ekphrázein, “to proclaim or call an inanimate object by the name”. Ekphrasis is the vehicle through which one medium of art tries to relate to another different medium by defining and describing its essence and form, and in doing so, relate more directly to the audience. Composers of music can be inspired by a poem, a poem can be inspired by a painting, a sculpture can be inspired by a character from a literary work of art, etc. So any form of an artistic medium can be the actor or the subject of ekphrasis – so any art may describe other art, and in doing so, can create art, and with the contemporary movement of mixed mediums, having synergy, crossing over blurred lines, things can get confusing in the autoreferential loop of the aesthetics discourse. So today let’s try an olfactory (kind of) ekphrasis review about an olfactive artwork that has a cinematic feel, name, and theme and is made by a visual artist. Before we over-analyze and over complicate things, let us hear out how Anselm Skogstad*, of DER DUFT clears things out:
“I wanted to create a perfume house with a brand name that conveys a simple message and intention to anyone interested in scents. I wanted there to be no need for further explanations or complex stories. Calling my brand “Der Duft” (The Scent) is to the point. The intention is that each perfume, each scent will create their own story and association for the person wearing it. It all begins with a good sniff while understanding the name of the particular perfume!”
Anselm Skogstad* is a German – American visual artist and journalist. What I found intriguing about his work is the way his visual compositions are episodes of a whole story (like frames of a movie) never being titled individually. All the images are composed immediately, as he does not modify or manipulate his negatives or digital files, giving his work an aura of realism and a raw, powerful, and direct storytelling impact. And to some series, a beautiful CINEMATIC thread links the frames that compose the story, the one that spoke to me the loudest being the series captured between 2005- 2008 in the New York City Subway.
Remember the movie Sliding Doors from 1998? There, Gwyneth Paltrow (funny how everybody looked so different, sporting the thin eyebrows of the 90s) loses a train and we explore her life: one woman, one event, and two alternative and contrasting timelines – followed side by side. It’s not a particularly great movie (as it’s quite a common typical 90’s romantic comedy) BUT, for many years, each time the metro doors would close right before me, I smiled and thought about the Butterfly Effect and the adjacent what-ifs.
So, what exactly makes a movie cinematic? Ask the experts and lots of variables come into play: camera position, depth of field, the lens, the lighting, color grading, the story – and the ever-shifting balance between all the elements. Same with photography, more or less. Let’s get on the metro before the doors slide close:
Frame 1, take 1, Station: Denial
Hearing: “Day’s dawning, skins crawling” – Placebo’s A pure morning in the headphones
Feeling: butterflies of new love hitting against your ribcage, from the inside.
Talking about: Sansa’s lemon cakes
Smells like: the fresh dough of donuts rings, coated in yellow citric glazing, lemony profiteroles
Notes: Crisp, zesty, alive, alert, indulgent: petitgrain, ginger, lemon
Frame 2, take 2, Station: Anger
Hearing: “Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter /Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down” Johnny Cash
Feeling: the tension radiating from your ever-clenched jaw
Talking about: the weather
Smells like: fresh sweat, high-pitched tachycardic breath
Notes: Citrusy, minty, spicy cardamon
Frame 3, take 3, Station: Bargaining
Hearing: “They say every man goes blind in his heart / They say everybody steals somebody’s heart away”
Feeling: anxiously numb
Talking about: what’s for dinner
Smells like: a bouquet of winter flowers forgotten in a wooden school bench
Notes: Wrapped nostalgia, covered in dust: jasmine, rose, carnation, ylang-ylang
Frame 4, take 4, Station: Depression
Feeling: uncomfortably numb
Talking about: no talking, just silence
Smells like: wooden faceless sculptures, made out of tactile and soft white wood, no sap, no nervures
Notes: Promise of sweetness, not delivered. Elegant, stern lines – vanilla, coumarin, moss, cashmeran
Frame 5, take 5, Station: Acceptance
Hearing: “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering /There is a crack, a crack in everything /That’s how the light gets in” Leonard Cohen, Anthem (link)
Feeling: your tail wave
Talking about: the spring to come
Smells like: taking your jacket off, away from the blizzard, back in your familiar cozy lair
Notes: Musk, Civet, Amber
Cinema is an immersive perfume I have deeply and thoroughly enjoyed, on many levels. It’s cinematic, as you can freeze-frame its development at any stage – and you have a picture-perfect example of a beautifully composed fragrance. Reduced to its essence-if we are to use labels- it’s a deeply enjoyable warm spicy -citric -ginger -cardamon -flowery – slightly animalic experience, deeper than the sum of all its parts. Bathed in the right kind of natural light, artistically focused on the subjects that come into play, and pictorially contrasting with the background elements, Cinematic is the kind of artistic fragrant experience that creates emotion. And after all, that’s the best definition of “cinematic” there is.
Editor’s note: *Anselm Skogstad is a German American visual artist and journalist. He lives both in New York and Munich, mixing the American care-free independent spirit with the rich artistic German heritage. He has a prodigious artistic career, having attended the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute, and has worked with renowned artists like Christopher Makos and David LaChapelle. See his work here: https://www.anselmskogstad.com/
Cinematic by Der Duft was launched in 2020, and the nose is Miguel Matos.
Notes: Petitgrain, Ginger, Lemon, Cardamom, Jasmine, Rose, Carnation, Ylang Ylang, Vanilla, Coumarin, Musk, Cashmeran, Civet, Moss, Amber
If you enjoyed Der Duft, also try: Hendley Perfumes