Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby justindeimen » Sun Jan 07, 2007 8:27 pm

Courtesy of


Perfume starts with a scene so ungodly and inhuman that we almost forget the film is about that most provisionary of humanly sensations. A wry and ubiquitous narration (by John Hurt) begins a tale of child born into the deepest pits of lifes wretches as he slowly discovers his talent. But even then, something was lost for good in that boy.

Based on a bestselling novel by Patrick Sskind about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (a commendable Ben Whishaw), a serial killer with a gifted sense of smell so powerful that his olfactory gifts surpasses human conventions, allowing him to unlock odours that nobody else can access. Believing that God himself blessed him, Jean-Baptiste becomes driven with the sole imperative to rape and murder 13 girls in order to get the components he needs to produce the perfect scent.

Its a departure from the directors (Tom Tykwer) exuberantly pithy Run, Lola, Run. This darkly ironic period piece takes on operatic proportions with Tykwer aiming to create a visual odyssey that becomes an alluring nexus of decadence, a kind of accelerated regression into hell as we follow a man absent of love and conscience.

A vivid and painted recreation of decrepit 18th century Paris together with its grime and a trenchant insight into the revolting nature of its citizens and filthy living conditions makes this a visual effort worth appreciating. It celebrates the startlingly intrinsic beauty and chaos present within the hideous while exposing the repugnance in flawlessness, striking a balance with the psychotic idiot savants talents and his nature. Its baroque designs almost complement the complexities of the Frankenstein-esque monster that Jean-Baptiste eventually becomes.

The compulsive drive to collect a comprehensive assortment of odours leads him to sniff out and experience everything the world has to offer, without having any sort of a moral compass. His killings offer little insight into his mind aside from a desperate attempt to connect with humanity, possibly with a misogynistic sense of retribution. And what about the pointed references to his asexuality or his alienation and anger?

The film does not manage to convey the dense character study with enough discipline, often choosing to assault our vision with listless appropriations of the horrors committed when the fascination instead lies with Jean-Baptiste. Indeed, the perfumes debut is curious by all accounts and just adds on to the layers of the appealingly drab persona of our killer. The notion of misogyny does not stop with the character however, as the films women are uninteresting, and are often despicable characters that end up as ensilage to Jean-Baptiste. They become amoral representations of mere lust and retribution that ends up serving a rudimentary purpose in the grand design.

Even as the film uniformly keeps a creepy and tawdry tone, Perfume allows itself to have some fun in dressing up and powdering Dustin Hoffmans face velvety white. It leaves him to camp up his character, Giuseppe Baldini, a fading perfumer who takes on Jean-Baptiste as an apprentice. Its a plot servicing, lightweight performance thats interchanged in the films halfway mark by a remarkably restrained Alan Rickman, playing the wealthy Mr Richis who represents the films visual shift into a richly colourful world that Jean-Baptiste seems to appreciate but is unable to ever be a part of. All in all, Tykwer is unable to compensate for the lack of smell with a heightened consideration of sensory overloading sound and imagery. Its a film that takes its absurd subject a tad too seriously with an uneven bouquet that turns bad at the end.

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby madhuban » Mon Jan 08, 2007 4:53 pm

Your review makes me sad because I had great faith in the brilliance of the novel and more so in Tykwer's ability to work with it But who knows, I might really like it!

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby justindeimen » Mon Jan 15, 2007 7:09 pm

As much as I don't put stock into ratings I gave this a 7 out of 10. That's not too bad in my book

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby hengcs » Tue Jan 16, 2007 6:11 am

I have watched it last week ... will write if time permits ...

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby hengcs » Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:18 am

What is commendable

-- The first half makes the audience feel sympathetic, while the second half keeps you on the toe ...

-- Although seemingly a plain narrative, as it progresses to the end, you wonder whether it is a philosophical film ... about so many issues ...
... individual/collective
... sense/senseless
... presence/absence
... possession/lost
... survival/life/death
... and even religion

What could be better ...

-- I presume all have a part to play (i.e., the actor, the director, the editor) ... although the initial plot (in the younger days) do make us empathize with the main protagonist's plight, his older days and subsequent "murder rampage" was far from sympathetic ... the second half , in its pursuit of a thriller, lack characterization and convincing transformation to make the audience side with the main protagonist ...

Recommended ... for being able to "sustain" an audience's interest despite its 2.5 hrs film (the second half seems like a thriller) ...

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby wpqx » Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:22 pm

What god awful rubbish. This film lost me early and never even remotely got me back. So much of the film is covered in filth that you almost feel dirty just for watching it. I found the character completely uncompelling and was baffled at his creepy form of idiocy. Let's not even discuss the ridiculous perfume revealed at the end. I never read the book but this movie makes me want to avoid it at all costs. Tykwer made a name for himself by employing nearly all tricks of the trade in his previous films, and this could have done with some more experimentation and a bath.

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Aug 11, 2007 7:36 am

You know wpqx, your comments are so wonderfully negative, especially - "So much of the film is covered in filth that you almost feel dirty just for watching it" that I feel almost compelled to see it now.......

I have enjoyed the few films I have seen from Tykwer but have avoided this so far. If I do see it now, I'm expecting it to be truly dire. Maybe I'll try and get hold of the source novel first.

Your comments are probably more enjoyable than the film, they certainly made me smile.

Cheers Trev

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby jcdavies » Mon Aug 13, 2007 5:38 pm

Well, i read half the book- o.k but the fact i didn't finish it says something. The film ending surprised me, but i can only wonder what its message was.

It's ok to murder lots of women if you create a scent that will astound a small crowd and then you die? (not much of a reward/outcome). Women have the most angelic scent- the essence of woman is truly celestial?

Maybe the film is not to be sniffed at but no great shakes either. 6/10.

Re: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Postby wpqx » Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:39 pm

Definitely weak there, and I have no idea what the final message was.

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