Arts & Culture, Featured

Movies that Rock: Perfume Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer starring Alan Rickman (aka Severus Snape), Ben Whishaw (aka John Keats), and Dustin Hoffman (aka Captain Hook)

Visually stimulating. Musically entrancing.

A film which sets our sensory perceptions on high alert and requires from the audience a “brave curiosity about the peculiarity of obsession.” (Roger Ebert)

Based on the novel Perfume by German author Patrick Süskind; the film is set in 18th Century France where Jean Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw) is born and abandoned among the filth and guts of a bustling fish market

He grows up in an orphanage unloved, unappreciated and insignificant. However, Grenouille was born with a gift: a superhuman sense of smell. He is able to discern every odor imaginable: rocks, water, frogs, glass, down to the simplest detail; he can tell when a stone is warm or cold based on scent alone.

He works for a tannery where his gift is rendered useless until the day he is brought along for a delivery into Paris, where he revels in the new and exciting odors. However all his focus centers on one intoxicating scent in particular; a beautiful girl selling plums. Unfortunately he loses the aroma and vows to himself to never again lose such divine beauty. His life now has purpose. His journey to preserve scent begins and the road only gets darker from there as the audience discovers the grizzly way in which he achieves his goal.

One particularly enjoyable scene is when Grenouille proves his worth to washed up Italian perfumer, Giuseppe Baldini (Hoffman); bustling around the latter’s workshop to recreate the newest sensational fragrance on the market. Baldini watches in horrified fascination as Jean Baptiste forgoes any measurements, dribbling a touch of cloves here, a drop of cinnamon there, a small pour of orange blossoms…until Baldini can’t take it anymore and orders the bizarre boy to cease at once. Grenouille urges Baldini to test it; he reluctantly agrees and is astonished when he discovers the boy did indeed successfully recreate the perfume.

This is a film where you end up sympathizing for the bad guy and are ambivalent about the good guy; where you’re not sure how you want it to end: with victory or defeat.

Warning: mature audiences only.

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