The meaning of the film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
The film “Perfume. The Story of a Murderer “is a screen adaptation of the world famous novel by the writer Patrick Suskind, who is often called the” German Salinger “for his hermitic lifestyle.
Book and film
Released in 1985, Suskind’s novel was a huge success, immediately becoming a bestseller. Soon after the book appeared, world-famous directors began to show interest in it, including Milos Forman, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick. The latter, however, withdrew his proposal, considering the creation non-cinematographic.
Only in 2001, Süskind decided to transfer the rights to film adaptation of the film, while the deal amounted to 10 million euros. The producer entrusted the filming of the film to the director Tom Tykver. The choice was influenced by both the German origin of the filmmaker and his love for France (Patrick Suskind, who lived in Paris for several years, considers himself a Francophile).
The director treated the novel with great care: the main characters and episodes of the work are preserved in the film. Only some details have been changed, in addition, for the sake of the dynamism of the plot, a period has been released, which the main character spends in the mountains and as a guest of the marquis.
At the same time, Tom Tykver managed to convey to the audience the most important thing – the special atmosphere of the book, saturated with the aromas of 17th century France, as well as the versatility of the work.
The beginning of the film
In the first frames of the film, we see the judges reading out the verdict to the black-eyed young man. According to the verdict, the journeyman perfumer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was sentenced by the court to a painful execution. The crowd gathered in the square is jubilant, expressing full approval of such a harsh punishment.
What is the fault of the young man? Before our eyes, pictures of his life, bearing an important semantic meaning, begin to unfold sequentially.
Birth and childhood
According to a voice-over, the infant, destined to become the greatest genius in the perfume world, was born in 17th century Paris. His mother, a fishmonger, abandoned the newborn among the garbage.
Perhaps it was their smell that made the baby scream, which saved his life – the cry was heard by the policeman who picked up the baby. However, the cry also caused the death of the infant’s mother, who was executed on suspicion of infanticide.
Little Jean-Baptiste Grenouille ends up in an orphanage, where he begins to explore the world. It was then that the unusualness of the boy was revealed, who refused words and visual impressions, but he subtly felt the shades of aromas.
Girl with plums
At the age of 13, the boy becomes an apprentice in a tanning shop, still feeling the power of smells, for the sake of which he takes long walks around Paris. During one of them, he meets a beautiful red-haired girl carrying a basket of yellow plums.
Attracted not so much by her beauty as by the captivating scent, the teenager cannot tear himself away from her. In a frenzy, he kills the beauty, trying to preserve the scent of her skin for himself. However, he failed to do this, and Grenouille feels empty and helpless.
According to the director, it was this episode that became the key for him in the novel. After catching the beautiful scent of the girl, the ingenious perfumer set himself a super task – to recreate it.
In an effort to learn the art of creating perfumes, Jean-Baptiste enters the apprenticeship of the Italian perfumer Baldini. The relationship between master and servant is reminiscent of the story of Mozart and Salieri. The old Italian creates fragrances by decomposing them and accurately calculating ounces and grains, while Grenouille relies on intuition that never deceives him. The apprenticeship scenes are extremely important in terms of meaning: a young perfumer gains his strength and confidence in his skills in order to independently begin work on a long-conceived elixir.
Grass and the fix idea
Having decided to continue his studies, the young man went to the capital of perfume – Grasse, where he got a job as a junior apprentice to the perfumer’s widow. A chance encounter with the beautiful Laura, whose scent emanates from her skin, confirms his intention to create a perfume of incredible magical power.
Grenouille conducts a series of experiments trying to figure out the best method to extract the essence of the scent of youth and beauty. He decides that his perfume will consist of 13 notes, for which he will need the bodies of young virgins. As a dexterous animal, the young man begins to hunt for them, creating hoods and discarding corpses.
Triumph and doom
12 notes are collected in a perfume. However, according to Jean-Baptiste, the bouquet lacks the beauty and fragrance of Laura. Sensing danger, the girl’s father tries to hide her, but in vain – at the moment of the arrival of the police, he completes the composition of the perfume.
We again return to the opening shots of the film: the death sentence has been pronounced – the criminal has little to live. However, Grenouille puts on himself a drop of “magic” perfume and the mood of the crowd changes dramatically: spectators who are just thirsty for blood suddenly begin to extol the young man, and then, seized with desire, arrange a stormy orgy.
Escaped from justice, the perfumer goes to Paris to the place of his birth. In an effort to drown out the stench or cause ecstasy, he pours himself with perfume – and traders and other inhabitants of the market attack him, who, inflamed with love, tear Grenouille to pieces.
The multidimensionality of the film “Perfume”
The genre of the film, like the books, is rather difficult to define. It is easy to find “gothic”, detective and social motives in it. At the same time, the director Tom Tykver in one of his interviews called “Perfumer” a “costume” drama.
One can hardly agree with the maestro, because in addition to a very detailed narration about the life of Paris and Provence in the Age of Enlightenment, the film (following the book) traces several deep philosophical implications.
Grenouille is shown in the film as an egoist, following his passions, but even the complete fulfillment of desires does not bring him happiness, but leads to death.
However, how much is the fault of the ingenious self-taught perfumer who was forced to fight for existence from early childhood? Moreover, murder is not entertainment for him, but only the only possible way for him to achieve his goal.
In raising this question, the authors come close to the topic of scientific ethics, which concerns the responsibility of scientists both for conducting experiments and for using the results.
The story of a man with genius abilities, who uses a criminally created elixir for the sake of popular love, in a strange way approaches the fate of dictators who go to the heights of power over corpses.
Finally, aside from its deep connotations, Perfumer can also be seen as a gripping narrative of the mysterious power of scent that can evoke hatred and love. Tykver managed to fill the visual space with scents so convincingly that many viewers begin to sniff at the twentieth minute of the film.