Saturday, February 17, 2018

Women in Horror: Perfect Sense (2011)

Susan and Michael have both given up on love. It just doesn't seem to work for either of them, so both focus on their work. Susan is a epidemiologist and her lab just discovered an bizarre epidemic spanning all of Europe. Michael is a chef whose boss wants to create art through food. They meet each other in the alley between her apartment and his work, sharing cigarettes and flirting. Their relationship blossoms as the world loses sense after sense to this epidemic with no known origin.

Perfect Sense looks a typical romance from its cover, but it has an epidemic of epic proportions. No one knows what causes it or how it's transmitted. Eventually everyone is affected by each stage of the disease. The first sign is a moment of deep sorrow followed by losing the sense of smell permanently. The second is a moment of ravenous hunger where the person eats whatever is within arm's reach followed by the loss of taste. The third is a moment of rage and hatred preceding hearing loss. The last is a desire for connection and love before losing sight. This unknown plague is a unique idea because it attacks people's connection to the world, setting it in contrast with Susan and Michael's relationship and what it means in this uncertain, chaotic time.

The way the public reacts to each stage of the disease feels realistic. After the first stage, people tend to avoid public spaces for a while until things go back to normal. The world adapts and serves spicier, more flavorful food. Musicians describe smells with words and music for those who have lost it. Life goes on. After the second stage, people panic a bit more, but life goes on as normal with people going to work and going about their daily lives. Dining is more about temperature, texture, and being waited on instead of about taste. After hearing is gone, their lives shut down as they are quarantined  inside their homes. The later stages have more profound effects and two movements emerge: people who go to work as normal and people who loot and reject normal society. Complete chaos follows the final stage seen. The progression of the effects on society is gradual and increases in severity with each stage.

Susan has given up on love after her last boyfriend cheated on her while Michael is incapable of emotional intimacy after his wife died. Both are focused on careers and friendship when they meet and have an instant connection. While the world is falling apart around them, their relationship grows closer and more intense. The development of their relationship is While everything is so uncertain, they fall into each other, get drunk, dance, and enjoy their lives when it's so easy to fall into hopelessness. Then the rage part of plague hits. Michael is in her presence during this time and rages at her, reducing her to body parts and cruelly saying that there's nothing special about her. Hearing such horrible things spew from him greatly affects Susan and she leaves to stay with her family. Once it hits her, she's alone and uses that rage to process her feelings about Michael.

The mysterious disease is representative of events in our lives. Anything can happen in this life and earth shattering events happen every single day to individuals. Finding love where the future is uncertain and awful things happen every day is special. Connection to other people is beautiful and what makes life worth living through all of this craziness. On the other hand, the people closest to you can also hurt you the most, shown in Michael's moment of rage. The ending of the film has Susan and Michael looking for each other when the last stage hits. It's a euphoric, sweet moment enhanced by the fact that afterwards, they will never be able to see. The film ends with their one sense left with no indication if it will stay with them. The logical end of the disease represents death, which is presumably nothingness without sensation or communication. The film posits that love and life are fleeting yet hold significance.

Perfect Sense is not what I expected at all and the story sucked me in. The familiar love story contrasts with the insane events worldwide in a lovely way. The overall film is surprisingly positive with such a catastrophe at the center of it all. The love story doesn't have any of the toxic tropes seen in romantic comedies. Eva Green does a phenomenal job as Susan, who isn't afraid to make hard decisions for her benefit. Her strength isn't dampened by her emotions and her job as a scientist and a doctor is refreshing to see. I stumbled upon this gem on Shudder, so if you haven't, give it a watch.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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