Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Film
SCENT OF A WOMAN Whishaw sniffs around.
SCENT OF A WOMAN Whishaw sniffs around.

Time Out says

The adaptation of Patrick Sskind’s acclaimed 1986 novel about an 18th-century homicidal perfumer has taken 20 years to reach the screen, largely because the Bavarian author didn’t think he could trust a filmmaker to capture the true sensory dimension of his wicked olfactory tribute. Yet his evocative writing is eminently adaptable, as this darkly sumptuous and delightfully graphic film version proves.

The titular criminal, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw), has a deific nose for smells, and kills beautiful women to capture and preserve their distinct auras as perfume. His struggle with his own preternatural ability, and its philosophical implications in a world simultaneously oblivious to yet atavistically aware of odor’s power, is what makes the story so compelling. As with scents that transmogrify depending on the vehicle, by necessity the translation from page to screen of this period-piece scenario has somewhat compromised the flavor of Sskind’s story. But in certain ways, the essential pitch and tone has been emotionally enhanced. What was arguably a voluptuous existentialist tract is now a troubling romantic fable, with the killer turned from an insectlike creature of diabolical intellect into a feral beast struggling to understand the very nature of love. Its final essence lingers like a troubling dream. (Opens Wed 27; Click here for venues.) — Stephen Garrett

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