A New Documentary On Dior's Most Famous Fragrance Is Here
by : Aleah Balas- Dec 1st, 2023
As one of the world’s most iconic brands, Dior is best known for its Lady Dior handbag, the Saddle bag, and, of course, its J’adore fragrances. However, what do we really know about the intricate process of creating a luxury fragrance? Not much, agrees director Matthieu Menu, who undertook a yearlong international project to tell the story of the reinvention of the L’or de J’adore fragrance
“Like most people, I didn’t know how a perfume was made, or what the creative stages—the beginning, the process and the final result—were,” says Menu. “In other words, it was a total mystery, waiting to be uncovered, combined with the exciting challenge for a director, of embodying a fragrance, which is by definition invisible, in images.”
In the new Amazon Prime documentary, which hits the streaming platform today, Menu pulls back the curtain on the creation of a Dior perfume, unraveling the mystery of how the brand takes the fragrance from a mere idea to store shelves around the world.
“The ultimate objective was to have people want to smell this fragrance, and I think we accomplished that,” he says.
The one-hour film begins in the development process and features Francis Kurkdjian, Dior’s new Director of perfume creation, as well as actress and Dior ambassador, Charlize Theron.
Inside the Dream is now streaming on Prime Video. Read on for snippets of an interview with Menu.
How did you approach constructing the tale of a great perfume in images?
“I used a similar approach to the first part of Inside the Dream, which focussed on Haute Joaillerie at the House of Bulgari. That is, starting with a unique story and a founding tale which was related, above all, to a human adventure. I wanted to show the origins of a composition while providing access to the world of luxury in all its truth. The aim of this film was to reproduce a creative journey while capturing true sincerity. The doubts of the fragrance creator are revealed, as is his exacting, complex quest, and the myriad women and men who make the existence of such a perfume possible. We had to reproduce a certain type of creative solitude, paired with impressive synergetic group work that is indispensable.”
What was it like meeting Francis Kurkdjian?
“When we approached the House of Dior, it so happened that the perfume development process was just beginning. This ‘chronological’ introduction was perfect for opening the story. Our first meeting took place at the Château de La Colle Noire, which was a haven of peace for Christian Dior in Provence. The soul of Christian Dior is palpable, especially in his magnificent garden, which we wanted to film as though we were ‘breathing it in.’ While we were there, Francis spoke to us in words that inspired and guided us, saying, ‘the launch of a great perfume is like the launch of an ocean liner.’ This set the tone – we had to envisage this film with equal parts realism and magic in order to enter ‘the inner process” of creation, to attempt to lift the veil on this mystery. We decided to follow in his footsteps, all over the world, embracing the complexities of his creation by conveying the enormous weight on his shoulders, and the strength that drives him. He is a fragrance creator completely in tune with his era, not in an ivory tower, and thanks to the trusting relationship we established, he accepted to talk to us really easily, in a transparent and authentic way. Capturing his pure, sensorial joy in India, when he discovered the fields of jasmine sambac, was a truly precious experience. It is an incredible moment in the film, when the viewer is with him, feeling his happiness and surprise at smelling the nuances and the facets of a flower.”
What about filming Charlize Theron? Can you tell us about that rather unique experience?
“She was generous and natural. It shows in the film that she is sincere. That’s what we wanted above all, to capture sincere, exciting moments where the stress is palpable, but where there is also a blend of pleasure in discovery. The sequence where she tries on her dress is particularly touching, you can really feel her continued sense of wonder at wearing a Dior dress. She has an almost childlike, incredibly fresh look in her eyes as she admires her reflection in the mirror. The images from Inside the Dream are very beautiful, they express the full sophistication of luxury.”
What choices did you make in order to achieve such an aesthetic result?
“Our objective was to compose a customized image worthy of Dior luxury. To do so, I chose very specific optics that enabled a very elegant “powdery” image result. In the same way, the choice of cameras, and the chief operator (who works in the film industry) was made with the idea of high quality execution in mind. In addition, the music, which is primordial in my opinion, was composed by Dan Levy, an ex-member of The Do, who usually only works on films for the big screen. We wanted the best to express the unique dimension of a great perfume.”
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