Sunday, August 24, 2008

Perfume : Story of a Murderer

Rating : 8/10
Running Time : 147 Minutes
Release Date : January, 2007
Director, Co-music & co-writer : Tim Tykwer ; Screenplay : Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger, based on the novel ‘Das Parfum’ by Patrick Suskind
Starring : Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood

It’s a story unlike any other you’ve seen or read. Its macabre, yet beautiful. Its set mostly in the filth of medieval France yet has almost a lyrical loveliness about it. And it keeps you hooked right from the first frame to the last.

This is a story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man born with an olfactory gift, a nose that can capture and detect smells of everything around him. He’s born to a poor mother, who runs a fish stall and his first sound condemns her to death. We see a little of his upbringing in an orphanage and then some part of his life in a tannery. None of it is pretty and right from the first frames, there are unnerving scenes. Yet they’re shown without sensationalism, without lingering on them and you understand that its all part of a bigger picture. And then, we see his inexorable movement towards the profession that would be the best use of his gift, becoming a perfumer.

And this is when we realize Grenouille is no ordinary man – he is obsessed not with money or fame or love but rather with scents themselves. He wants to be able to capture every scent in the world and his journey takes him from the streets of Paris to the fields of Grasse, the Mecca of fragrances. And this is where I stop and let you discover the rest on your own.

The movie has 3-4 brilliant touches. First and foremost is the performance by Ben Whishaw, playing Grenouille – it is outstanding, truly magnificient. His character speaks no more than 50 words through the film but just by slight facial expressions he manages to communicate all the emotions and the almost maniacal intensity that consumes and drives his character throughout the film. The performance is so good that Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman pale in comparison, they seem like mere character actors. The next brilliant touch is the narrator, John Hurt, who talks us through the whole film – his gravelly, matter of fact voice and choice of words enhance the movie and help us understand this most complex of characters. The third is the simplicity of the plot – when you have a good story, you don’t need sub-plots. This movie, like its lead character, stays focused on what it wants to say and depict. And the fourth is the cinematography, which depicts all the filth, the muck of that era, but without overpowering us or depressing us. And the montage that accompanies Grenouille's birth and later, his first awakening to his gift when he is five, is amazingly well put together.

This is not a film for everyone and definitely not for kids. There is no adrenalin rush here yet a quiet intensity which keeps you glued from start to finish. This is a movie which will heighten your sense of smell, will make you more aware of the fragrances around you. And I don’t think you will ever choose a perfume the same way again.


halime said...

Hi Sir. ı was searching the blogs related to bollywood. and as a chance ı got your blog as ı met you by chance before when you were in Istanbul for your company celebration in CONRAD HOTEL.
I m turkish named as HALİME full with india and bollywood. and even ı ll move to India. Bangalore in 2 weeks.
ı watched this movie also Perfume awesome movie about frnch history also.. and ı didnt find any blog of you about Mission Istanbul: is it such bad? even ı watched that too...

Vande Mataram

Anonymous said...

Interesting reveiew.. I think a must watch for me if it will change the way one would buy perfumes..A lot of them on my must watch list minus time.. I will one day for sure.. Thanks.Bee

Unknown said...

Hey! I did see Perfume (albeit in parts because jet lag/back-to-US responsiblities got to me everytime I thought I had enough time to get through it). I hate to admit, but it didn't live up to my expectations. Sure the fascination of seeing France in that era, the magic of the narrator and the cinematography get full marks, but the fact that it was all in English made it almost a blasphemy. (I almost turned French sub-titles on LOL.) Also, there was this surreal element that made it more like a fairy tale than a work of art. Finally - unlike other members of the erstwhile female population that bask in the glory of flowery aromas, yours truly prefers the more (down to) earthy scents and hence could not really appreciate the "essence" of enfleurage. Sorry ladies!



Anonymous said...

Liked the movie...Nice review....Liked wat u wrote at the end..."I don’t think you will ever choose a perfume the same way again". :)