Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Starring: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman Directed by: Tom Tykwer

Genius.  Talent.  Is it a blessing or a curse?  Perhaps that depends on the type of innate gift one has.  In Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is born with an extraordinary sense of smell that brings him as much misfortune as it does pleasure.

Literally moments after he arrives in the world, his keen nose saves one life and leads to the end of another.  His intense fixation on exploring scents makes him somewhat of an outsider in the orphanage where he grows up; he sniffs everything (including sticks and a dead rat) and whiles away his free time parsing out the aromas of the dirt, rocks, water bubbling in a nearby brook, wet rocks…you get the idea.

Circumstances eventually take him to the olfactory smorgasbord of the Paris marketplace.  One new scent in particular bedevils him – that of a beautiful young redhead (Karoline Herfurth) wending her way through the streets selling golden plums.  His limited social skills make his desire to indulge in her scent a bit creepy – he follows her, sneaking up behind her to sniff her hair and skin.  Their interaction ends badly and leaves Jean-Baptiste with a new haunting obsession – how to preserve a woman's scent after life slips away from her body.

His keen nose earns him an apprenticeship with a struggling perfumier Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman), who teaches him the art of distilling fragrances and the craft of creating fine perfume.  This method does not suit Jean-Baptiste's needs, so he travels to Grasse, Italy to learn other ways of preserving scent.  There, he experiments with new methods until he finally discovers one that delivers the essences he desires.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a strange movie, but definitely worth the weird.  If you like:

  • A bit of the bizarre
  • A tale told well (the movie is based on the novel Das Parfum by Patrick Süskin and is narrated in some parts)
  • A light thriller – suspenseful, but not in a heavy-handed way; somewhat predictable yet still with surprises

Put it in the queue!

If you don't like:

  • Depictions of noisy, crowded, filthy 18th century Paris
  • Aberrant behavior involving nudity, violence, sexuality, and disturbing images (all of which contribute to the film's R rating)
  • 'Discreet' murder (i.e. not messy, noisy, scary etc.) in your movies

Don't put it in the queue.

Written by Jennifer Venson