Monday, July 20, 2009

Potter's Potions

Just saw “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Comments: An uber-hip teenage critic in the family thought it was too heavy on frivolity, but changed his mind after a second viewing. Me, I thought it was plenty dark, showed some nice cinematic touches and weaving of themes between the visual and the spoken, and was worth a trip to the cinema. Though I *did* wish there were more layering within sections.

Whyfor Potter? With perfume?

Because early on, in potions class, the students are introduced to the recipe for and effects of a love potion. Hermione, of course, provides the deets: “It’s effect is different on each individual who experiences it. On me, for example, I smell...newly mown grass...fresh parchment...[sigh] spearmint gum....” Have we perfume appreciators not read plenty, discussed plenty, ruminated plenty on those scents which have visceral effects upon us? The wizards’ love potion is all about that. Scents are composed according to the perfumer’s experience, according to a committee brief, a mentor’s directive, a customer survey. But they always come down to a single rendition...a particular something, a unique but the same in every bottle delivery...

...the closest we come to the individual experience delivered by a Hogwarts love potion is the (still contested) experience that different people will experience the VERY SAME potion differently, or differently depending on whose skin they smell it, or differently depending on time of year or context. Come to think of it, maybe there is a sort of magic going on there...yes, I know science will explain it eventually. Receptors and all. But, it’s still magical, isn’t it?

Further on in the Potter film, the pensieve reappears, and there is Dumbledore’s fabulous glass cabinet, full of vials containing various memories. Because my brain had already been primed by the love potion scene, I saw that cabinet and immediately thought of a perfumer’s organ. Yes, physically it resembled some of those cabinets like in the perfume museum in Barcelona, and that crossed my mind, too. But the perfumer, sitting down with so many single notes, ready to compose an accord, or blend a full piece...those memories waiting to be explored individually, or collected in an overall experience...and then Harry, submerging himself in the water, letting the memory/experience consume his conscious.

Mown grass, indeed.


Incidentally, there is a scene in the movie where a professor explains why an academic always travels with ampules, a trait which of course is both "intellectual" and opportunistic. On the way home, I entertained my family by having son-the-film-critic reach into my bag and pull out what would appear to be a typical hardshell eyeglasses case. What does his mother, a one-time college teacher have inside?

Ampules, of course. 1ml and 1.5ml glass vials, at the ready to collect specimens.


Musette said...

I missed the entire Harry Potter phenomena, including the books (yikes!). I've seen bits and pieces of them - suppose I should sit down to an HP (a HP?) marathon, so I will know what everybody's going on about, eh?

What an excellent idea, the eyeglass case! I'm always fearing breakage - never even considered an eyeglass case. you are such a genius!!!!


ps. taking a break from writing about renewable energy for our website. zzzzzz! - actually, I keed. It's really very interesting. But I'm wearing the wrong perfume for it (Big. Concentree). Very confusing. I think I will give Vent Vert a whirl, even though it is 'young'. After all, I am hoping for a Green Wind, am I not?

ScentScelf said...

Hey, there's a thought...a list of "perfumes to be green by"...including the inevitable discussion of how to identify them. ;)

Yeah, I thought I had struck upon a bit of magic myself when I came up with the eyeglass case idea. The vials are protected better than in the fabric pouches I used to use...that is, when I was a) remembering to have vials with, and b) organized enough to gather them into a single location.

Aw, heck. Get the room's attention with Big Con, then reel them in with your renewable energy talk. Pleasant variation on an old trick... ;)

Trish said...

Can you believe I have never read one Harry Potter book nor seen any of the movies? My excuse is that I have two boys, 7 and 4, and I am saving myself for the time when I can enjoy reading and watching with both of them. I hear it can be quite the family affair!

Anyway, love that they discuss love potion. Thanks for sharing your movie review and I look forward to watching it in let's say....4 years?

ScentScelf said...

:) Trish,

The Potter phenomenon worked out brilliantly for my kids. My older child was reading rather early, and discovered the series @ the time the second book was out. So, he grew along with Harry, albeit a few years behind. And the movies--which of course run the risk of disappointing, AND which can be a more intense experience, even though you "know" what's coming--were timed such that they didn't come out until he was older than when he read the book they were based on. A bit more emotionally ready.

Yup, I'd say 4 years at least, depending on the sensitivities of the this point in the series, all the dark and mayhem has begun.

Rose said...

I can't wait to see the new film. I've been away- in England but not somewhere with lots of cinemas.

It's top of the rose indulging herself list for the week!

I adore the books and book 6 is one of my favourites

ScentScelf said...

Rose, I don't know if it's the best of the movies, but certainly worth seeing for a fan. So glad you are indulging!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

I, too, have fallen WAY behind on the Harry Potter phenomena. I've only read the first book and seen the first movie! But this is such a fab, thoughtful post... loved it!

ScentScelf said...

Thanks, DC. :)

One thing I loved about the Potter phenomenon when it was in full swing was all of the people who were READING...not just that adults were reading it, but that you could see them on the train, in the park, in a coffee shop...reading a novel.

Jenavira13 said...

That scene got me also and love your story as to what was in your case.

Nathan Branch said...

Loved reading your take on the potion scene -- especially when you recognized that what's magic now is just a scientific lock waiting to be opened.

Like the puzzle of perfume.

Thanks for that.

Aimée L'Ondée said...

Hey there, I'm not sure if you saw my response to your comment on my blog. You can reach me at quipus72 at!
I love Harry--started reading the books in a fit of post-grad-school "I'll read whatever the hell I wanna" rebellion, and it reminded me of the joy I felt in reading fantasy as a kid. So the whole damn franchise, behemoth that it has become, will always have a special place in my heart. I was likewise impressed by the vials and elixirs and love potions in this chapter of the series!