Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Synopsis: Director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) has turned this best-selling novel into “a visceral thriller” that’s “deeply, lushly, delightfully sinister.” (Christy Lemire, Associated Press).

With Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman headlining an all-star cast, Perfume tells the story of a French peasant blessed and cursed with a sense of smell so keen it is his primary experience of the world. But when first aroused by a young woman’s scent, his desire to forever capture her essence quickly mutates into a dark and deadly erotic compulsion.

The terror and tension mount with each beautiful victim in this spellbinding tale that culminates in a finale as unexpected as it is unforgettable.
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer  8.5

‘Perfume’ is a twisted fable from the director of the brilliant ‘Lola rennt’, masterful ‘Heaven’ and of (in my estimation) the very best segment from ‘Paris, je t’aime’. It is also, I think, one of the best movies of the last decade. And I’ve been told that the book is even better.

It is at once beautiful and disturbing, tragic and poetic. It is the story of a child with an overdevelopped sense of smell who, because of his upbringing (in 18th century Paris), is unable to relate to people. His only connection with life is olfactory; in his mind, there are no good or bad ones – they are all valid experiences.

Thus he becomes obsessed with scents, and wants to experience (and sometimes capture!) every scent in the world. He not only learns the trade of perfumer, but his single-minded pursuit leads him to commit crimes – sometimes inadvertently, sometimes purposefully.

The magic of this film is that it makes you sympathize with the lead character. This is not a ‘Jack the Ripper’ movie whose sole intention is to frighten the viewer – it ably mixes various elements and drops you into Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s world. Even while the movie takes a darker turn half-way through, as he devotes his time to his pursuit, you understand how he got there and can almost excuse the poor bugger. Almost.

Because, despite everything, what he ends up doing is terribly wrong: he essentially terrorizes a village without a care in the world other than to find specific fragrances – fragrances that will serve their purpose in the end. But, a movie that manages to play both sides so well, that allows you to experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the character’s very personal world and yet the horrors that he is capable of is a rare thing indeed.

Such is the perfect balance struck in ‘Perfume’. To think that I was going to give it a miss, and almost did.

NB: for the faint-hearted, please note that the movie is neither gruesome nor dramatically scary. There is no gore and no blood at all throughout this film, regardless of the subject matter; it’s truly all about tone.

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