Got the touch – Perfect Sense review

Perfect SenseStarring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green. Directed by David Mackenzie. Rated MA. By Hilary Simmons.

In David Mackenzie‘s Perfect Sense, a selfish chain-smoking chef falls in love with a contemptuous, spiteful scientist. Both prefer systematic patterns to sensory perception, which they see as simply the source of physical satisfaction and financial security. In the opening scenes, Michael (Ewan McGregor) ejects a pretty girl from his bed because he can’t sleep with another person beside him, and Susan (Eva Green) chucks stones at seagulls to wile away an idle hour at the beach. Michael’s immediately the more sympathetic character – then again, if seagulls raise your anxiety levels, Susan may seem to be the more rational.

How you perceive either of them is fairly irrelevant as the focus shifts to the mysterious virus infecting mankind. This global epidemic deprives people of sensory functions, one by one, and the epidemiologists studying it can find neither cause nor cure. Government leaders argue about whether it’s ecological terrorism or environmental disaster, then urge people to keep calm and carry on with their lives. One of the most interesting things about Perfect Sense is the way it portrays the public’s response to this calamity – rather than collapsing into mass hysteria, they simply adapt to their sensory perceptions snowballing faster and faster downhill.

Restaurants become somewhere to experience textural sensations à la carte; song lyrics evoke phantasmagorias of lost smells; art galleries offer immersion in olfactory oceans. In this sense, Perfect Sense is alluringly fatalistic, suggesting that humanity will always find a way to recycle and reconstruct our sensory patterns and rhythms, however catastrophic the odds. This refusal to say die, even in an end-of-the-world scenario, is reinforced by Richter’s droning, insistent score.

Back to Michael and Eva. They are both oblivious to other people’s plights and sensually dispossessed from the start. They coolly contemplate the next evolutionary step of the epidemic as they embark upon a tentative affair. Susan’s voiceover is intrusive – it sentimentalises rather than strengthens the screenplay. The scenes of afflicted masses scoffing bottles of hot sauce, raw fish and bath soap as the viscerally pathological symptoms of the virus take hold are a much more effective way of exploring what makes us human. Similarly, it is Michael and Susan’s unexpected discovery of hope and commitment that most convincingly answers the question.


Perfect Sense arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on March 7, 2012.

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