He lived to find beauty. He killed to possess it.
I am talking about the 2006 German drama-mystery, Perfume – the story of a murderer, an adaptation from the novel of the same name, written by Patrick Suskind.
The film, directed by Tom Tykwer is set in 18th century Paris, where Jean Baptist Grenouille, an eccentric with superior olfactory senses creates the worlds finest perfumes. Events take a dark turn when he becomes obsessed with the quest to create the ultimate perfume.
The film starts with Jean Baptist Grenouille, a notorious murder, played by Ben Wishhaw, being sentenced to death.
The film then moves into the flashback narrating the life of Grenouille from the time of his birth in Paris stench, his growing up in an orphanage to his servitude in a tannery, to his quest for creating the ultimate perfume that can inspire love.
Born with superior olfactory senses, Grenouille is exposed to many smells when he visits a posh Paris market one day. He nose focuses on a girl selling plum and is very fascinated by it. He suffocates her to death when he tries to stop her from screaming. Grenouille realizes the smell of the girl’s body fades away when she dies. Hence starts Grenouille’s obsession to learn to preserve forever the scents that inspire love.
Grenouille convinces Baldini, a celebrated perfumer, to teach him the art of preserving scents; in turn he creates several new perfumes for Baldini. When Grenouille realizes that Baldini’s method cannot preserve scents of all objects he is devastated and moves to Grasse, to leave advanced perfumery methods.En route Grasse he realizes that he doesn’t have a smell of his own, and hence he sets on a new quest, to create the world’s most unique perfume to prove his worth.
He learns to preserve the scent of humans by covering them with animal fat and then distilling it. But in order to do that he has to kill the person. And to create the ultimate perfume he has to extract scent of 13 beautiful young women. Grenouille embarks on a killing spree killing young beautiful women dumping their naked corpse thought out the town creating havoc and chaos.
Grenouille selects Laure for his 13th scent, but her father, played by Alan Rickman, realizes the danger and takes her to a secluded country side inn. Will Grenouille find Laure, will he succeed in creating the perfume to inspire love, the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The film moves to the present where jean Baptist Grenouille is being taken for execution. He applies a drop of the perfume on himself. The executioner and the crowd in attendance are overwhelmed by the beauty of the perfume. They declare Grenouille innocent before falling into an orgy.
The final scene, more gruesome than the murders, is at the birth place of Grenouille, where he pours his perfume on himself and is then devoured by the people.
The actor Ben Whishaw who plays Grenouille is very convincing as a half-crazy and part-scary genius. Grenouille is an ambivalent character and you never know whether to love him for his genius or to hate him for his cruel murders.
Dustin Hoffman as benevolent, unsuccessful perfumer Baldini is fabulous, and Alan Rickman plays the single, protective father with his usual flair.
This is one of those films – you may not savor it but you will not stop watching it, in horror and fascination. Perfume – the story disgusts but keeps you glued to the screen wanting you to punish Grenouille for his savagery and also hoping he is freed.