Perfume - The Story of a Murderer

Film , Drama
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How to recreate the wonder of smell on screen? Tom Tykwer’s answer: don’t bother, and indulge in other sensory pleasures instead. His and Andrew Birkin’s adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s novel chronicling the olfactory perversions of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a fictional serial killer in pre-revolutionary France with a particular nose for young women (who here all look like Calvin Klein models), offers obvious obstacles to any filmmaker. Bar rare experiments in ‘smellovision’ such as the ‘Odorama’ scratch-and-sniff cards John Waters created for ‘Polyester’ (1981), cinema doesn’t offer much to the humble pecker, preferring instead its close neighbours, the ears and eyes, from which Tykwer demands full attention, even if he leaves a jealous brain demanding more.

Tykwer manages to send a tingle up the spine from the off, when Grenouille’s mother gives birth to her unwanted boy among the stinking entrails of a Parisian fish market. He has us squirming at the sights and sounds of this living hell, just as he dives straight into the visual horror of the years that Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) spends living in an orphanage and working at a tannery. Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic deliver a rousing score (to which Tykwer himself contributed), but not even that can save a saggy middle section when we can’t help but tire a little of all the murder and beauty. One of the film’s last hurrahs takes the word baroque to a higher plain as we witness a mass public orgy, which can only be described as the marriage between the desert sex scene in ‘Zabriskie Point’ and the nude public photographs of Spencer Tunick. It’s a film so sumptuous that afterwards you’ll feel you’ve consumed a very, very rich meal indeed.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Tuesday December 26 2006
Duration: 147 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Tom Tykwer
Screenwriter: Tom Tykwer, Bernd Eichinger, Andrew Birkin
Cast: Ben Whishaw
Dustin Hoffman
Alan Rickman
Rachel Hurd-Wood