I did something I have never done before - I watched a Bond film. I caught Casino Royale on a recent rainy Sunday. Violent, bloody and for me, hard to completely follow, I was still able to enjoy the luxurious locations, gorgeous sets and wardrobes. I was especially taken with Bond Girl Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green. And as I read after watching the movie, this was the only film where James Bond (Daniel Craig) actually falls in love with his leading lady.
I was struck by a poignant scene when Bond's large masculine hand plucked a tiny seashell among a tumble of belongings from Vesper's handbag. By this time, Vesper had been killed and Bond had been unable to save her. The items in her purse formed a lovely and wistful composition on top of her black embroidered purse. The shell represented the untroubled but fleeting days of their love affair when they tarried on sandy Italian beaches embracing and kissing. Along with the shell was Vesper's sleek camera and chic white cell phone, a linen handkerchief, a book of poetry, a fine black wallet, and a rather large bottle of scent. A quick internet search netted the name of Vesper's perfume: Santa Maria Novella's Melograno, which by all accounts is a worldly fragrance with a trailing feminine heart - much like the way I would describe her strong yet fragile nature which was endlessly fascinating. It's no wonder that she stole and then softened the heart of the cruel and callous Bond.
I am certain the contents of Vesper's handbag were selected very carefully by filmmakers to represent her unique personality and to trigger Bond's grief - his sad face as he examines the lone shell says it all. The scene is very brief but Vesper's belongings are a delightful allegory into her psyche and a clever visual haiku for romantic types like me.
The innards of a female handbag remain a secret garden - it's quite rare to be privy to what women carry, even the handbags of close friends. Certainly most men seem immune or at the least, confused by what's in them. A hungry boyfriend once asked me hopefully, "Do you have any food in there?" But to see what a woman carries is to gain a most private perspective. I remember how I felt when I saw a strange man holding my open handbag and rifling through it looking for my ID after he found it in the parking lot of a hotel. I had foolishly left it on top of my car after I loaded my suitcase and blithely drove away. When I returned a few minutes later, the kind man was holding it with one hand while his other hand groped inside for my license. I remember noticing how small my bag seemed in his possession. And it was strangely intimate.
French artist Nathalie LeCroc has made a career creating watercolors of the items found in women's handbags. She prefers an un-edited handbag - no removing gum wrappers or baby pacifiers in the taxi on the way to her studio. Her works of art will one day be a book of 1,001 handbags and their secrets. The prints are as charming and varied as the women they belong too.
I have a friend who stores her deceased mother's handbag wrapped in layers of plastic. She says that when opened, it still retains the smell of her mother and she wants to preserve that sacred imprint as long as she can. Could it not be said that a piece of our very souls are found within the jumble of our handbags?
Below, is mine. Unedited. Like Vesper, I too, carry a large bottle of scent.
If you carry a talisman that is special or want to disclose what your handbag holds, I'ld love to hear.