Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (15)



Drama (2006)
147mins Ger/Fr/Sp

Starring: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood
Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer(s): Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger, Tom Tykwer
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Orphaned at an early age in 18th century Paris, wastrel Jean-Baptiste Grenouille develops an obsession with the world of scents: in particular, recreating the scent of a pretty fruit vendor, whom he kills by accident. Working as an apprentice to renowned parfumier Giuseppe Baldini, Jean-Baptiste hones his craft, discovering that the ingredients for his perfume can be harvested from the dead bodies of young women.

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Read Ben Whishaw's Interview (Grenouille)
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LondonNet Film Review
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Immersing us in a world of intoxicating sensory pleasures, Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer is an audacious, dreamlike work, which will either seduce you or leave you cold. There is no middle ground...

Alan Rickman and Ben Whishaw in Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer. Copyright: (c) 2005 Constantin Film GmbH.Based on Patrick Suskind's seemingly unfilmable novel, Tom Tykwer's ravishing picture attempts to convey the invisible delights of a lingering fragrance within the cinematic framework.

For those members of the audience willing to succumb to his lush vision, it's a heady journey into the mind of a serial killer who barely utters a word for the entire film, conveying a maelstrom of emotions through Ben Whishaw's extraordinary lead performance.

Unfortunately, the slavish devotion of co-writers Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger and Tykwer to the source novel will test the patience of even the most ardent fan. Entire sections, notably during the opening hour, could be excised to instil the film with a greater sense of urgency, without dulling any of the visual splendour. Production designer Uli Hanisch's evocative recreation of the squalor of 18th century Paris, complimented by Pierre-Yves Gayraud's costumes, captured in their glory by cinematographer Frank Griebe, can only hold us spellbound for so long.

But they certain fire the senses, like the scenes in the bustling market - the filth and grime seem to drip off the screen, and you can almost catch a fleeting whiff of the overpowering stench of rotting fish guts.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw) is born into this festering hellhole and is cruelly discarded by his mother, before greedy orphanage owner Madame Gaillard (Sian Thomas) takes the child under her wing. From an early age, Grenouille develops an obsession with the world of aromas: in particular, the scent of a pretty fruit vendor (Karoline Herfurth), whom he kills by accident.

Haunted by the smell of the dead girl, Grenouille secures work as an apprentice to renowned parfumier Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman). Grenouille hones his craft and soon realises that the ingredients for his ultimate perfume, one which will bring the world to its knees in reverie, can only be harvested from the dead bodies of young women. And so he embarks on a killing spree, targetting the virginal Laura Richis (Rachel Hurd-Wood) as his final victim, except her merchant father Antoine (Alan Rickman) senses the impending danger, and spirits her far away. Unfortunately, Grenouille intends to have her scent for his collection, come what may.

Whishaw's largely wordless portrayal of a psychopath sears into the memory, his gaunt face flickering momentarily to life when a new aroma suddenly catches Grenouille's fancy. Rickman is an excellent foil but Hoffman is a tad hammy. The pedestrian pace thankfully gathers momentum as the authorities close in on the killer, building to an extraordinary climax at a public execution. Tykwer's dedication to achieving his daring vision is not to be sniffed at.

- Sophie Abell

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