Saturday, July 16, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: Perfume: The Story of A Murderer

Things are going to get wonky for a spell folks. Reviews out of order of the viewing date and such, along with some multiple review entries. We will persevere through these troubled times, can't let life stand in the way of watching 151 horror movies!

So, for today we have Perfume, a movie I love for its absolute strangeness and tone. Its not your typical horror movie, and for long stretches you can feel like your watching a dramatic and beautiful period piece. Even the grim and filth of the poorer sections of France are immaculately captured and filmed, somehow being beautiful despite how absolutely dirty everything else is. When we finally leave then, its stunning. The colors and landscapes of the country are incredible, entire scenes are moving paintings of flowers and grass.
See this movie.
None of that matters to the man the story follows, played by Ben Whishaw. These things are all just vehicles for smell, simple vessels for the scents they carry. He is a man possessed of a need to smell everything, and soon that becomes an obsession to preserve the smells around him once he realizes that when people die, the smell died with them. A lesson learned when he mistakenly kills a women who's smell enraptured him. This eventually blossoms into a compulsory need to create a smell for himself, as he eventually realizes he has no smell of his own.

The movie opens with his birth, and follows his entire life from that moment. He enters the world without love from his mother, abuse from the orphanage, and essentially slavery when he is sold to a tanner. At no point does he experience meaningful human contact, he is forever apart from the human condition, all people offer him are smells. So when smothers a woman while trying to keep her from screaming (he just wanted to smell her) its not the loss of life that bothers him, its the loss of smell.
"My creeper sense... its tingling..."
This unspoken aspect of the character is what really makes it amazing for me, the movie has a narrator who explains a great deal, but never how his life drove him to these moments. His striving to preserve smells is an obsession because its all he knows, life gave him nothing save for his nose. When he realizes he lacks a smell his obsession is driven by the thought that a lack of smell is why no one has ever cared about him. The people he murders to gather the scents he wants for himself don't matter, just those smells.

When all is said and done and he finally achieves his goal and sees the power it grants him, he realizes it won't actually allow him to love or be loved back. What he knew wasn't enough to grant him the humanity he was denied from birth, his quest for humanity ultimately means nothing because he lacks the proper grounding to even see it. He returns to the place of his birth and lets it consume him, losing all drive after what must have felt like a purposeless obsession.
Beautiful even when its filthy.
The acting is all spot on. Our protagonist never comes across as a killer, even when hes in the middle of the act, because this barely registers as being wrong to him. Likewise, despite the sexual nature of the whole affair of gathering scents, he never hints at arousal of any kind. The camera lingers as if it itself is interested, and then pans to show a man devoid of interest in anything other then the scent at hand, it juxtaposes the moment well. He is always apart and awkward, but his talent for perfume allows him to integrate just fine. He portrays someone raised without love perfectly, you really believe the sociopathy.

Other great acting is all around him as well. When he finally manages to talk to a perfume maker played by Dustin Hoffman, the mans pride wars with the concept of an untrained prodigy, but he soon relents at the idea of a golden goose. He revels in the popularity of his new perfumes, finally coming out of obscurity. Later we get Alan Rickman as an overprotective father, and when he loses his daughter he drips the hate we know he can deliver so well.
Hoffman is an expert wafter in this movie.
Cinematography, as I already said, is incredible. This is a movie about smell, and the fact that they so effectively evoke this sense out of visuals and sound is a feat to behold. The soundtrack is also haunting and beautiful, subtly twisting scenes and driving your emotions. The whole movie is a very specific and focused study in obsession, humanity, and of course the important of smell in our lives. Its worth checking out, you will either love it or hate it for its unflinching exploration of its story, but its worth it for the spectacle alone.

Check out the full schedule and previous reviews, check out The 150 Days of Halloween, despite the wacky lose of schedule this week. I swear we'll get back on target soon.


  1. Never seen it nor heard it, looks pretty intense. Would you recommend it? Aproximate lenght?
    A plus is Dustin Hoffman, i love that guy hahaha

  2. Wow. I wonder why I haven't heard about this until now...

  3. this is seriously a great review. it looks like something i might like, so thanks. i hadn't even heard of this.

  4. yeah very interesting movie :)

  5. I saw this movie like last week it was a cool movie.

  6. I actually wanted to see this. Sadly I forgot about it until just now. Thanks much. The whole idea was so crazy it had to be right up my alley. Now to find it on Netflix!

  7. oh yes! i loved this one, so tragic so intense!

  8. Hmm, I read the book before, wasn't aware there was a movie.

  9. Haven't seen it! Hit me back,

  10. It is now added to the "favorites" tab in my brain, because I got to watch it with you by happy accident. Fantastic film.

  11. Wow, great and thorough write up. Felt like I watched the movie while reading it. Now I just have to watch it for the cinematography you speak so highly off.

  12. a nice movie, but the novel is way better!