Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

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What is a good smell? If I say roses or baking bread or fresh-cut grass, a remembrance comes to mind. But that is all it is unless you are actively smelling these things at the time you are reading this piece. You remember how your grandmother’s sourdough bread smells the morning after Christmas, or how those roses smelled freshly picked from the garden or how a companion smells after coitus. But I can’t tell you exactly how to smell those things. How can you translate this to a film? This film tries its hardest, but in the end it epicly fails.

Perfume is about a young man who has one of the best noses ever. He becomes enchanted by every smell around him, especially by a beautiful woman. Wanting to capture that smell, he goes on a quest to distill the essence into the perfect perfume. This involves him killing thirteen beautiful virgins, covering them in fat, shearing off their hair, and boiling their essence down into a small bottle. These events rock a small town in France and at once a murder investigation is brought on. The problem is that nobody knows what he wants. He doesn’t ravish them, he doesn’t mistreat them, he doesn’t do anything that a normal murderer would do. Once they do find him and capture him he has already finished his perfume. What will he do with it now that his fate seems inevitable?

Through the journey of this unfortunate man, we are supposedly placed on his side. And yet he gathered no sympathy from me. He barely ever spoke, his obsession is one that you can’t be overpowered by because you can’t experience yourself, and he treated everyone he encountered badly. I just didn’t care. What I cared about were the supporting characters. Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman give understated performances as unwitting victims of a serial murderer. They move through this time period with such grace. But it did not save the film for me.

The director seemed to have cared more about the sets around the characters, the period dress, the griminess of each situation our protagonist is thrown into instead of the motivations and emotions of the characters themselves. I could have dealt with less scenes of the grit and the grime. I know that Twyker has a visual style that is on par with other great visionary people, but you can’t have transcendent visuals without a great story. You just can’t

This movie is based on a bestseller for the late eighties. It had a bumpy road coming from the novel to the screen, so much so that it probably should never have been adapted.That is the lesson Hollywood needs to learn. A long bumpy road to production does not usually lead to a good finished project. Please learn it quickly before I have to shoot myself in the foot for watching another bad adaptation. Thank You and Good Night.

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