It's the perfect name for a serial killer movie: Perfume. Okay, it might be a bit odd, until you take it in context: the movie is about a misguided young man in 18th century France who wants to achieve the perfect scent, that of a woman. To do so, he needs to kill them to study them and extract their smell.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a tragic tale of a man who was destined to misery from birth, but who also was born with a spectacular gift. Produced in the stench of a meat market, he was abandoned by his mother upon birth. Placed in an orphanage, the other children noticed something odd about the child. Out of fear, they attempted to smother him, but the baby was saved at the last second. As he grew up, he didn't speak for years. He had no friends, and the others feared and teased him. It didn't matter to him. He had only one fascination, and that was with smell. Ever since birth, he had been gifted with an amazing sense of smell, and that desire to experience every smell imaginable drove him to adulthood. But it was not until he noticed women for the first time that his fascination gained a purpose...
The movie came and went from theaters without anyone noticing, but the picture is a surprisingly effective and alluring drama - if you can get past the completely off-the-wall ending. Ben Whishaw stars as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and does a good job as a rather quiet-but-expression-filled boy; he reminds me a lot of a Billy Budd-type character gone wrong, as in many ways he isn't evil, just amoral. Dustin Hoffman and Severus Snape - er, Alan Rickman - turn in fine performances as supporting characters.
The real credit goes to director Tom Tykwer and his crew, as Perfume is a beautiful film with amazing scenery and an enchanting score. The movie is just fun to look at, and the music makes everything work.
The only problem I really had with the movie is the ending, which is so out of left field that it is hard to understand what the director was thinking (of course, maybe this was based on the novel). While the rest of the movie is at least grounded in reality, the ending amounts to what can only be described as a ludicrously strange sex orgy. This ending completely threw me for a loop, and was not the ending I was expecting or wanted.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is at times intoxicating, especially thanks to the enthralling score, but it does have some rather large flaws in places that never allows it to become the classic it could have been. Still, the film is a surprisingly decent drama.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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