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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Literature > Thriller > Perfume – The Story Of A Murderer (DVD-Video)

Perfume – The Story Of A Murderer (DVD-Video)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: D     Feature: D



When it first arrived as a book back in 1985, Patrick Suskind’s Perfume – The Story Of A Murderer was a big hit worldwide, published like crazy and soon after, interest in making it a film surfaced.  At one point, Stanley Kubrick was even interested, but the author would not allow anyone to get it and Kubrick moved on to other work.  Over two decades later, the rights finally were sold and Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer was hired to helm the film.


A hit in Europe and bomb in the U.S., the story centers on the birth, life and journey of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a young boy born as a baby into poverty as well as with the gift of exceptional smell.  The gift stays with him his whole life and eventually becomes obsessed with the idea of smell and keeping it.  The journey includes meeting an expert on the subject (Dustin Hoffman) and his obsession leading to murder.


The book can be frustrating, can be problematic, but is an original and very, very dark.  I was hoping Tykwer could really handle the material with the proper weight of the mortality and existential angst of the book, but he (who also co-wrote the screenplay) manages to botch the entire film by trying to make it whimsical and lightweight.  That makes its 147 minutes drag like crazy and even Alan Rickman cannot save its final reels.  Ben Whishaw is good as Grenouille well, but this becomes more fantasy than the Horror the book offered.  If anything, you could call this pathetically anti-Kubrickian in its inability to deal with human sexuality and make everything a light joke.


Making sure I did not miss anything, I dug out my copy of the book and read it again to see if he found something in the pages I missed.  No.  I was correct.  He disemboweled the darker layers of the book for some pretentious, illicit appeal to “art’ or the like and the result is a mess.  In the end, it later reminded me of Hannibal Rising (reviewed elsewhere on this site) when I saw that.  Both had young killers in Europe (with gutted color filming?!?) we are supposed to sympathize with, yet the story gives us zero reason to be interested.  In both cases, the films go off into directions that are pointless and the resulting missed opportunities offer a list of not to make a film.  Ultimately, Perfume the movie is like a fly-by-night fragrance with a celebrity name that smells like insecticide, versus the book, with a rich, original smell.  Too bad Kubrick did not make this one.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is soft and does not do total justice to the good work Director of Photography Frank Griebe managed to get in, though there is some bad digital work more often than you’d think.  Depth is also an issue and the desaturated colors are rendered oddly and inconsistently here.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 ands Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix are not always lively, but has unique ambience and the mixers took aural advantage of the unusual narrative situation.  The music is mixed (Tykwer co-composed it) and John Hurt’s narration never gels despite his best efforts.  The only extra is a making of featurette.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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