PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER
Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
A young man born in the stench of 18th Century France, with a gift for survival and a keen sense of smell falls in love with the idea of preserving a woman’s scent. Yet he finds that their scent is easier to capture when the women he finds are dead.
Is it good movie?
Tom Tykwer has a knack for creating incredibly striking images with some amazing music. As a writer, director and musician, he has created some very original films. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is no exception. When a woman gives birth to a child in a slum of the 18th Century, we are told by a narrator that this was her fifth and most of them died and were thrown out with scraps. But this child is different, it somehow manages to survive. Taken to a orphanage, the child grows up and is then sold as a slave to a mean old gruff man. All the while, the child grows with an innate ability to smell. He can smell the fragrance of a cold rock underneath a river. He can smell the sweat from a woman’s face on a hot day. This sense keeps him alive, knowing that he must find a way to capture the scent of a beautiful woman. To keep it alive forever. Even if she must die. Perfume may be the most beautiful film about a serial killer ever made.
It’s very impressive the way director Tykwer manages to make the sense of smell such a visual experience. When Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) discovers a new scent, the camera seems to take it in along with him. When we find him working in a factory where he learns the art of keeping scent, the beautiful colors of the flowers contrast the grungy streets. He shows us how this character is able to find beauty in what surrounds him by creating a pretty beautiful canvas. Mr. Tykwer also adds a touch of class by delivering a fantastic score performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker along with Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil. This is a lush and vivid portrait of a man with a gift, who has no knowledge how to love or to feel love, only to kill and capture the spirit of those he takes. A man desperately searching for acceptance.
Ben Whishaw is really quite a find as the Grenouille. His mostly dialogue free character expresses himself with every scent he discovers. He is subtle and believable as a man with a special gift that makes him a bit of a monster. I wouldn’t say I rooted for him, but I did find myself very involved with his search. I also enjoyed Alan Rickman as the father of a young woman that Grenouille has in his sights. His fatherly devotion is in many ways as heartbreaking as the killings. And the murders are not graphic (which may disappoint a few) but there is quite a bit of nudity. The victims are shown undressed in death, so not really something to get excited about. And in one curious sequence that I’ll just call the “orgy scene”, several people are naked and caught in passion. Yes, this is a curious film that deals with death, smell and the search for acceptance in a visually striking and shockingly beautiful way.
Video / Audio
Video: This is a fantastic Widescreen Transfer for 16x9 television. The colors are incredibly rich while the grim and filth of the city are also very clear.
Audio: The Dolby Digital, 5.1 Surround is fantastic. Giving new life to the movie with the wonderful score.
Sadly, there is an awful stench when it comes to the lack of extras here. We only get The Story of Perfume (13:51), which is a great watch as the director talks about his choice for actors and the relation with the book the film is based on.
Other than that, you get Trailers for “Zodiac”, “Disturbia” and “Next”.
Tom Tykwer continues to prove that he is one of the most fascinating directors working today. Perfume explores the story of a murderer with a keen sense of smell. Tykwer is able to represent this man’s obsession in such a stunningly visual way, which is also well represented by a beautiful score. He also made some wonderful choices with his cast, especially Ben Whishaw. His subtle and creepy performance gives credibility even when the somewhat far-fetched ending arrives. It works as a fantasy which is based in the dirty and disease ridden reality of the 18th Century. Yes, it’s a period piece, but one like you’ve never seen before. A refreshingly original and chilling work of art.