Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: The Empire of Scents

The Empire of Scents

You smell! – A common refrain in the playground. In truth, we all smell, but our olfaction, whilst taken for granted, plays a huge role in our enjoyment of food and life. The loss of this sense can have a huge impact on our happiness and memory. It’s an essential emotional trigger which plays a huge part in every aspect of our lives. In Kim Nguyen’s The Empire of Scents she investigates several different aspects of our olfactory function, using humour and empathy.

From a truffle hunter in France, a chef, scientists, a wine connoisseur, to a person striving to trap the very essence of woman in a bottle, The Empire of Scents dives into many different elements and strands around smell. The most powerful tale focusses on someone who lost her sense of smell following an accident. She recounts her experiences without it and its slow return. The lighter moments revolve around whale excrement (or vomit), truffles and Vulva.

This is acclaimed director Kim Nguyen’s first foray into documentary filmmaking and she brings a sense of narrative structure to the subject. The director of the Oscar nominated War Witch has so much material that she only really scratches the surface. She has enough material for several films and there are several strands which merit further investigation. However, The Empire of Scents is an often laugh out loud journey into how we as humans are so profoundly affected by smell. It’s bright, it’s powerful and great fun.

For more information about The Empire of Scents, visit the website.

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