Film Review – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Title – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Director – Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run)

Cast – Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, John Hurt, Sara Forestier

Plot – A sprawling epic set in the 18th century that follows perfume maker Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw) whose extreme sense of smell leads him on a dark quest to find the perfect scent.

“Now pay attention to what I tell you”

Review by Eddie on 13/06/2019

Adapting Patrick Suskind’s famous and controversial 1985 novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer was never going to be an easy task, but its a task Cloud Atlas director Tom Tykwer gave a good go at back in 2006.

Somewhat a sleeper hit upon initial release, one that saw Tykwer’s high budget film make its mark in the worldwide box-office, Perfume wasn’t exactly fawned over by critics despite its strong production values and handsomely crafted period detail but in the year’s since, this dark and morbid tale has become somewhat of an underground heavy-hitter.

Talked about in film circles, thanks largely to it’s needing to be seen to be believed final act and it’s unwavering examination of Ben Whishaw’s gifted but sadistic Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, whose on a quest to find the world’s perfect scent, of which he will find using his extraordinary sense of smell, Perfume is in many ways memorable but that doesn’t make it anymore tolerant to bare.

The problem with Tykwer’s film and its faithful adapting of Suskind’s novel is that this is a two and a half hour film that is entirely bereft of any light, sunshine or levity with Tykwer’s grey, gloomy and depressive take on the material making for viewing that is both tough and grungy.

Grenouille is a hard central figure to put up with, barely muttering more than a few words together at a time, its not that Whishaw is bad, its just that Grenouille isn’t someone you want to be spending as much time with as he goes about an increasingly depraved quest to unlock a world changing scent that unfortunately can only be discovered by the murdering of young females.

This doesn’t exactly make for an easy going viewing experience and while you initially are waiting for a slither of goodness or light to appear from within the unfortunate Grenouille, you begin to realize that this isn’t something that will be forthcoming.

It’s as dark of a story as it sounds on paper and while some may praise Tykwer for sticking to his guns and delivering an uncompromising and very un-Hollywood treatment, there will be other’s like me who find Perfume eye-capturing in a production sense but resent the story within it and it’s not hard to see why many critics were less than enamored with Perfume upon its initial cinematic run.

Final Say –

A bizarre and nefarious little tale that features one of the modern era’s most eye-popping finales, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a film that’s hard to enjoy despite its fine craftsmanship, due to the very nature of it’s depressive and sinister central concept.

2 1/2 town square’s out of 5

21 responses to “Film Review – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

  1. Nice review! I remember watching thisbafter reading the book and I was unimpressed by it, I must admit. I don’t think I’m revisiting it soon!

    • It had some great elements of craft but for me it was a pretty despicable story and main character, I just couldn’t enjoy my time in that sense.

  2. Ahhhhh, sorry you didn’t like this more. I was a big fan of this! It was dark and unsettling, but totally ticked my boxes.

    • Dark and unsettling is right Zoe! For me I appreciate much of it and how faithful it was to its source but I didn’t find that made the film enjoyable for me.

  3. Oh my goodness. The movie is, as you say, is well-crafted and I’m a big fan of both Hoffman and Rickman. But, even though I appreciate craft and production values, this one horrified me. I have to say, however, the way it horrified me was well-done. I discovered it was an adaptation and, while I often read a book if I enjoyed the film (prefer to do it the other way around), this time I decided I needn’t go “there” again. Thanks for another fine review.

    • I found it very “icky” ha, I can’t think of any other word. I just found the characters mostly repulsive and spending two and half hours with them quite hard to bare.

    • I only hear good things about the book. I just couldn’t enjoy this film even though some of the craft and sequences were quite stunning.

  4. I think it was a great film but of course I found in it the predictable shift .almost like a refraction, from book to movie as the movie of course limits what one might want to imagine by demanding the setting and the actors and whatnot. However, I thought it was a powerful movie, and I think it very unlikely to be made any better.

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