Now Presenting: A Review of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

4 min read

Note: This review was written May 6th, 2014

Rabies and germs, I didn’t really know what to expect whenever I discovered Perfume on a shelf at the rental store. I had heard rumblings about the movie from time to time. Most notably, I remember reading a summary about the plot and being filled with a since of intrigue. I learned that it was based on a 1985 novel written by Patrick Suskind, but I never really noticed that the setting was 18th century France. For those that are unaware, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a 2006 German thriller directed by Tom Tykwer, and is what I will be reviewing on this edition of OOF Lite.

What’s funny is while watching this movie, I made this subconscious connection to Cloud Atlas, only to find out that it was actually done by the same director. The movie stars Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, and Rachel Hurd-Wood, and to their credit, everybody is able to bring about an admirable performance by the conclusion of the movie.

The film tells the tale of a boy that grows up at an orphanage, facing numerous hardships while simultaneously honing a peculiar ability that makes him unique, this being his sense of smell. He doesn’t take a liking to the deemed normality of life, doesn’t take satisfaction in many so-called pleasurable activities, but constantly finds himself infatuated with various smells. He doesn’t hold prejudice over good or bad ones, but merely holds the guideline that they have to keep being unique.

There were two comparisons that I found myself making with this character, Casey Affleck’s performance as Robert Ford in the Assassination of Jesse James and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. I made the comparison to Robert Ford because the character’s portrayal isn’t one that you are supposed to be rooting for. He’s technically the protagonist, but he’s not really an antihero, you completely accept that he’s a vile human-being that is completely obsessed, but he doesn’t necessarily do anything that makes you want to root for him.

Similar to Robert Ford, I think that Ben Whishaw does a terrific job with his performance, coming across as genuinely awkward, bizarre, bewildered, and disinterested in the world around him. And a lot of that leads to why I make the comparison to Frankenstein, like Frankenstein, the character eventually does terrible things, but he never seems to empathize or comprehend that what he is doing is bad. However, that’s where the comparisons end because, unlike Frankenstein, this character is only interested in indulging in his own addiction, which is a precise way of describing what this movie is about. I believe that the character alone is enough reason to recommend this movie, but there is more to be said about this movie than merely praising alone.

Perfume has a run-time of one-hundred and forty-seven minutes which doesn’t manage to match Cloud Atlas’ near three-hours, it does, however, manage to induce a feeling of being dragged out. Given it what is due, there is a fair amount going on within the movie, however, it feels so disproportionate and inconsistent with what the message is meant to be that it’s easy to become disinterested. I believe that a lot of the scenes were unneeded or stretched in-such a way that you could probably get across the exact same thing, all of the scenes and everything, in under two hours. There is also a certain ridiculousness to the concept itself that felt unnecessary, for example, there are a lot of scenes where the protagonist is able to smell things from literally miles and miles away. There’s a difference between being obsessive and having superpowers. I don’t believe that it was necessary, I don’t believe that it really added to the in-depth look into obsession, and while it may have made enjoyable scenes from a cinematographic perspective, I don’t believe they were needed for the story.

Then, I wonder whether or not I am actually justified for annoyance when it comes to his smelling ability when I am fully aware that the audacity of this film propels itself onward to uncharted territory by the conclusion. There is only one problem about it though, I like what they did in the final thirty or so minutes. I mean, it was an absolute mess of random and mind-jarring happenings that it is likely capable of turning somebody’s brain into mush, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I thought it was very bizarre, and very different, but the problem is that I never believed that the movie itself could have been capable of such an intricate and bewildering climax. They didn’t go together at all whatsoever, something more grimed in-reality, it came off more uneven than it should have, like squeezing a square block into a slot specifically made for circles or two puzzle-pieces that only fit because you make them fit.

In an effort to keep it simple, I’ll summarize my thoughts with a final verdict: The movie isn’t absent of ambition, and oftentimes, it even has the merit capable to back it up. Ben Whishaw brings a very powerful performance about a despicable and morally repugnant, however, that isn’t enough to keep from being undermined by a script and story that don’t really have a steady rhythm about them. It feels allover the place, but if you can focus yourself long enough to find reason in the madness, I do believe that there is a lot of enjoyment to be had with Perfume.

Placement on the List: The Decents

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