I recently had the complicated pleasure of watching Triangle of Sadness on an airplane, and can confirm that it’s a very good in-flight movie option only if your specific plane anxieties do not include A) the idea of the massive transportation vessel on which you are currently traveling crashing and/or burning, or B) projectile vomiting. Nonetheless, it was at this moment in the film when I got to point at my little in-seat screen, like Leo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton pointing at his TV in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, and say, “Wait! I know that perfume!”
The fictional cologne Grande Ombre, it turns out, is actually a real-life fragrance called Fantôme de Maules, crafted by the self-proclaimed “niche” Stockholm-based perfumer Stora Skuggan, which I also happen to own—and have, in the past, recommended on this very website. Per the brand’s description, the name refers to a ghostly recluse-survivalist wandering a small village, called Maules, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland; the scent itself has warm base notes of oakmoss and cedarwood, topped with herby florals and leafy greens. (Told you: niche Swedish perfumer.)
So shocked was I to see that wacky, SSENSE-core* perfume bottle on screen in the movie, I had to know: how did a bottle of Stora Skuggan perfume end up on the big screen in Triangle of Sadness?
I hit up the company via email and got a response from the brand’s co-founder Olle Hemmendorff, who admitted that the answer is actually sort of straightforward and rooted in the small world of the Swedish creative scene. Turns out that Hemmendorff’s brother, Erik, was a co-producer on the movie, and a few years back they’d all had dinner together with Östlund, who was describing his vision for what would become Triangle of Sadness.
Stora Skuggan Fantôme De Maules eau de parfum
*Speaking of, you actually can buy the real Fantôme de Maules, as well as a host of other Stora Skuggan fragrances, on SSENSE.
“Actually he went into incredible detail, he is a great storyteller, and it’s amazing to see how much of this early vision was directly transferred into film,” Hemmendorff wrote. Since the cologne backstory was already there, the production team asked to use one of Stora Skuggan’s bottles as a prop in the film. “It was a real tough choice for us of course,” Hemmendorff added. “I’m joking, it was absolutely not.”
Hemmendorff said he was into the idea that, in the Triangle of Sadness narrative, Grande Ombre’s conventional, ultra-masculine marketing “is the opposite of how we present our brand, so in that sense the perfume in the movie exists in some parallel universe.”
He continued: “I really like the way it’s presented too, the bottle being found in a heap of trash is precisely the off-handed balance between art and luxury we often strive for. And it’s not that evident, it’s not like our logo is visible, so you need to know our design to recognize it. Otherwise people might have thought it was product placement, when it’s just good old nepotism.”
He also imagined that the fragrance in the movie would smell different than the actual Fantôme de Maules, saying that if he could “recreate Triangle of Sadness as a perfume, I would either go the conceptual route and create something that smells super luxurious and rich, but for an annoyingly short time. Or just try to replicate the smell of money as realistically as possible, because in the end, it just smells like oxidized dead skin cells and decaying paper.”
And because Hemmendorff seemed game to answer my heady questions, I wondered: since Carl did find the bottle in all that sun-bleached flotsam and jetsam, if Hemmendorff thought that the quality of the fragrance would have turned at all by the time it landed ashore. Would it have gone sour, or remained somehow pristine?
“No, I think it’s funnier that the perfume still smells perfect (it’s really hard for a perfume to go off, despite a lot of myths),” he replied. “The uselessness of a perfume when you’re starving is funnier when it’s still actually good.”