Perfume: The Story of a Murderer


Director: Tom Tykwer

Starring: Ben Wishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, John Hurt, Alan Rickman

If someone was to say that a movie about perfume could be one of the best and most unique movies you would probably say they are a little bit crazy. It might conjure up images of flowers and pink things and the napes of ladies necks. Essentially though, Perfume is a story about desire and murder, played out in the most unconventional way possible.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Wishaw) was born in the gutters of Paris, cast aside by his mother and left to die. When he is found lying amongst the rotting offal of the streets he is taken to an orphanage where he begins a life of forced physical labour. But there is something unique about him. He has an overdeveloped sense of smell and likes nothing more than to savour the different scents of his surroundings.

 With an obsessive hunger to preserve human scent he befriends Baldini (Hoffman) in a bid to learn all that the perfume industry has to offer. When he has exhausted the knowledge he leaves for Grasse, the home of perfumers, to hone his skills. Here he engages in a practice that draws the movie towards its final conclusion.

Tykwer, director of the fantastic Run Lola Run, pulls off a semi-masterpiece with Perfume. His use of sets and scenery paint a beautifully realistic picture of the era. His sense of timing between narration and acting is perfect and his use of the camera to film the sense of smell is as descriptive as is humanly possible.

But the real star of the movie is Wishaw. His portrayal of innocence with a lingering sense wanton desire beyond control is so astute it may leave you breathless. During some scenes the film plays like a silent movie, with only the actor’s expressions holding the viewers attention. And that he does, with deftness other actors struggle to attain ever in their career.

Although it could have done with a bit of chopping around the midriff, Perfume is movie making at its best. If only more films would aspire to this level ingenuity.

*****

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