Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

3.5 14
Director: Tom Tykwer

Cast: Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood


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An obsessive French perfumer with a highly developed olfactory sense and an all-consuming drive to capture the essence of love eventually resorts to murder in his unrepentant quest to find the key ingredient for his recipe in director Tom Tykwer's adaptation of author Patrick Suskind's best-selling 1985 novel. Born in a fetid fish market


An obsessive French perfumer with a highly developed olfactory sense and an all-consuming drive to capture the essence of love eventually resorts to murder in his unrepentant quest to find the key ingredient for his recipe in director Tom Tykwer's adaptation of author Patrick Suskind's best-selling 1985 novel. Born in a fetid fish market and raised in a dilapidated orphanage, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) toiled his childhood away in a rank tannery run by the thuggish Grimal (Sam Douglas). Subsequently obsessed by smell, Grenouille's keen olfactory sense becomes so finely tuned that it eventually overpowers such human qualities as love and compassion. Though he has indeed discovered the unmistakable scent of a woman, Grenouille finds it impossible to connect with the fairer sex on any sort of meaningful level. Roaming the streets of Paris late one night, Grenouille catches the scent of a young girl selling plums and impulsively strangles her, later sniffing her nude corpse in a twisted attempt to preserve the distinctive scent in his memory. After persuading legendary perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman) to take him on as an apprentice, Grenouille travels to the town of Grasse in Southern France in order to learn the art of enfleurage at a firm run by the highly respected Mme. Arnulfi (Corinna Harfouch). It is there that Grenouille becomes dangerously drawn to the vestal aroma of the young and beautiful Laura (Rachel Hurd-Wood), the daughter of widower merchant Antione Richis (Alan Rickman). Soon driven to madness by such a pure scent, the spellbound Grenouille continues to claim the lives of the numerous young girls in a tragic attempt to bottle the impossibly elusive smell of virginal womanhood.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Releasing a costume epic in the thick of Oscar season is a calculated risk -- it can pay big dividends in terms of prestige-by-proximity, but if it doesn't get marketed as an outside-the-box genre buster, it'll just get buried. This was the unfortunate fate of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, which should have also gotten more attention because it came from Tom Tykwer, the writer/director of the enthralling Run Lola Run. Remarkably, Perfume is an equally original work. Simply put, when was the last time you saw a film about the sense of smell? It would seem a cinematic mismatch, but Tykwer uses every narrative gift at his disposal to give a deeply rich and palpable visualization to the olfactory themes. When Dustin Hoffman's perfumer uncorks the divine scent spontaneously conjured by his apprentice, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), his laboratory morphs into a lush digital garden for the time the scent lingers in the air. Perfume is peppered with such inspired methods of communicating smells, both delicious and repugnant, and their potential to overwhelm. As if tackling this overlooked sense weren't enough, Tykwer also may be the first filmmaker to delve into the mysterious art of making perfume. That gets its procedural day in the sun through another set of fascinating sequences. But what may be most impressive about Tykwer's film is that it is so different from anything he's ever made. Run Lola Run showcased one kind of brilliance, but here, Tykwer nearly eschews Lola's jittery aesthetic in favor of a grand period opulence that's languidly paced and deliberate. One wouldn't even know it was the same director but for the rare signature touch. (And it's worth noting, when praising Tykwer, that he and collaborators Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek composed this film's period-appropriate music, just as they composed Lola's techno soundtrack.) With gorgeous cinematography by Frank Griebe and a trio of art directors working overtime, the alternating grubbiness and glamour of 18th century France pops off the screen, from the fish-strewn marketplaces of Paris to the palatial mansions of Grasse. Some viewers may have a hard time adjusting to Hoffman in a powdered wig, and he does sometimes distract, though his role is relatively minor (as is that of the always good Alan Rickman). But Whishaw makes a profoundly unknowable protagonist -- a loner orphan gifted with a supernatural sense of smell, who uses killing merely as a means of attempting to bottle the perfect scent. Tykwer makes grand gestures in this film, most notably the brilliantly executed climax and its jaw-dropping use of extras. Those who frowned on Perfume may have attacked scenes like this one, which go over the top in adhering to the film's status as a dark fairy tale that knows it couldn't really exist. But anyone who appreciates errors of ambition will surely forgive Tykwer, especially once they get swept up in his spell of smell.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Dreamworks Video
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Special Features

The Story of Perfume

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ben Whishaw Jean-Baptiste Grenouille
Alan Rickman Antoine Richis
Rachel Hurd-Wood Laura
Dustin Hoffman Baldini, Giuseppe
Karoline Herfurth The Plum Girl
David Calder Bishop Of Grasse
Simon Chandler Mayor Of Grasse
Sian Thomas Madame Gaillard
Jessica Schwarz Natalie
Corinna Harfouch Madame Arnulfi
Paul Berrondo Dominique Druot
Timothy Davies Chenier
Carlos Reig-Plaza Actor
Sam Douglas Grimal
Harris Gordon Marquis de Montesquieu
Sara Forestier Jeanne
Joanna Griffiths Marianne
Birgit Minichmayr Grenouille's Mother
Alvaro Roque Grenouille 5 Years
Franck Lefeuvre Grenouille 12 Years
Michael Smiley Porter
Richard Felix Chief Magistrate
Francesc Albiol Court Official
Gonzalo Cunill Guard 1 Dungeon
Roger Salvany Guard 2 Dungeon
Andres Herrera Door Guard
Reginald Wilson Customer Fishmarket
Catherine Boisgontier Woman Fishmarket
Nuria Casas Woman 2 Fishmarket
Carlos Gramaje Police Lieutenant Fishmarket
Walter Cots Wangüemert Driver
Perry Millward Marcel
Jan Cortes Boy Boarding House
Berta Ros Girl Boarding House
Joan Serrats Upholsterer
Jaume Montane Pelissier
Bridget McConnel Aunt
Duna Jove Young Woman
Dora Romano Baldini's Wife
Carolina Vera Neapolitan Girl
Ramon Pujol Lucien
Anna Gelman Albine
Laura Gelman Françoise
Guillermo Ayesa Tallien
Anna Diogene Tallien's Wife
Montserrat Maso Housekeeper
Toby Harper Police Lieutenant
Jerome Willis Councillor
Fermi Reixach Councillor
Derek Smee Councillor
Albert Pérez Councillor
Artur Sala Gatekeeper
Thomas Lenox Messenger
Richard Collins-Moore Innkeeper's Wife
Nico Baixas Guard Torture Chamber
Enric Arquimbau Executioner
Oriol Tramvia Land Priest
Cristina Sola Woman With Bishop
Laura Vidal Traver Hangover Girl
Ariadna Cabrol Beggar Woman
Maia Jenkinson Beggar Woman
John Hurt Narrator
Simon Rattle Conductor

Technical Credits
Tom Tykwer Director,Score Composer,Screenwriter
Christian Almesberger Camera Operator
Fura Dels Baus Casting,Choreography
Alex Berner Editor
Andrew Birkin Screenwriter
Grace Browning Casting
Stefan Busch Sound/Sound Designer
Daniel Chour Set Decoration/Design
Laia Colet Art Director
Deborah Chambers Set Decoration/Design
Kerstin Dyroff Production Manager
Bernd Eichinger Producer,Screenwriter
DDT Efectos Especiales Makeup Special Effects
Sebastian Fahr Art Director
Sebastian Fahr-Brix Art Director,Asst. Director
Julio Fernández Executive Producer
Julio Fernindez Executive Producer
Alexis Fibla Set Decoration/Design
Anne Fremiot Casting
Pierre-Yves Gayraud Costumes/Costume Designer
Tatjana Gluska Makeup
Frank Griebe Cinematographer
Andreas Grosch Executive Producer
Michelle Guish Casting
Samuel Hadida Executive Producer
Uli Hanisch Production Designer
Reinhold Heil Score Composer
Hucky Hornberger Art Director
Daniel Horowitz Makeup
Johnny Klimek Score Composer
Beatrice Kruger Casting
Frank Kruse Sound/Sound Designer
Ulrike de la Lama Makeup
Manuel Cuotemoc Malle Executive Producer
Martin Moszkowicz Executive Producer
Jürgen Müller Casting,Choreography
Iñigo Navarro Set Decoration/Design
Uli Nefzer Special Effects Supervisor
Die Nefzers Special Effects
Gigi Oeri Co-producer
Waldemar Pokromski Makeup
Miguel Puertas Production Manager
Susi Rodriguez Makeup
Andreas Schmid Executive Producer
Caroline Thompson Screenwriter
Estelle Tolstoukine Makeup
Christiane Weber Makeup
Roland Winke Sound Mixer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
1. The Realm of Scent [:22]
2. Madame Gaillard's Orphanage [:14]
3. A Utopia of Unexplored Smells [:24]
4. Giuseppe Baldini [6:13]
5. Essential Oils [1:47]
6. Teach Me Everything [4:54]
7. Solitude [4:27]
8. And the Gods Began to Smile [8:10]
9. Journeyman [:27]
10. Hide and Seek [7:33]
11. Until His Collection is Complete [:46]
12. On the Run [7:11]
13. Laura [2:33]
14. Remember This [2:55]
15. The Thirteenth Essence [6:54]
16. Drawn Back [:53]
17. End Credits [7:21]


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3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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AnnArboreum More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most ridiculous films I have ever seen. I was so excited, I had hear nothing but good things about the book and I was dying to see the film. What a waste of money. It was halfway decent up until the scaffolding scene near the end. That was what did it for me. I almost got up and walked out. I cannot fathom what people appreciate about this film.
QLTgirl More than 1 year ago
After the first ten minutes I shut it off, thankfully it didn't cost me anything. The only semi-redeeming thing about the movie is that it has Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman in it. Other than that it isn't worth the disc it's on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a film certainly worth watching. Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman deliver fantastic performances and the plot is thoroughly engaging. While I will admit that this film is not a commercial blockbuster; it certainly is worth watching.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
PERFUME - THE STORY OF A MURDERER may not succeed on every level. Based on the novel DAS PERFUM by Patrick Süskind and prepared for the screen by Andrew Birkin, Bernd Eichinger, and director Tom Tykwer, this is a story more about the senses than about people. The main character is not the sort of man with whom we can identify, but the progress of this crazed youth into the olfactory madness of serial killing for the sake of creating perfumes does provide an opportunity to study life in the 18th century in a way seldom available for viewers. It is clumsy in spots, protracted in length, and a bit tedious in the telling, but visually this is a movie that is a feast (?) for the eyes. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Wishaw) is born in poverty and while he is thought to be stillborn, he survives and is found to have an extraordinary sense of smell. His youth is spent in work houses and slavery until one famous Italian perfumer Giuseppe Baldini (Dustin Hoffman), living in Paris, discovers Grenouille's gifts and takes him on as an apprentice. The lad learns the technique of vaporizing and boiling essences but when he asks Baldini how to capture the smell of 'anything at all' (particularly the scent of women), Baldini sends him off to study the technique of 'enfleurage', a manner of embedding flowers in fat until their essences are absorbed yield a pure form in the distillation of the melted fat. Grenouille begins to capture women to coat them in fat to obtain their scent and in doing so he begins his cycle of murders of the victims. When he encounters the lass Laura (Rachel Hurd-Wood) who would steal his attention, her father Richis (Alan Rickman) finally puts and ending to the macabre tale of Perfume. In many ways, though the cast performs well, the star of the production is the cinematography by Frank Griebe and the accompanying musical score by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, and (yes) Tom Tykwer. At 147 minutes the movie is too long for the story, but the setting and moods created are well worth watching. Grady Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can’t remember the last time a film struck me in such a way. It makes it seem as though there is another layer to the world that we never realize is there. It will make you believe in tangible magic and the miracle of genius. I can’t believe I heard so little about this film when it first came out! Now I’m rushing through the book I’m reading so that I can pick up the Patrick Suskind novel that inspired this movie.