What did the hero of the movie “Perfume” really achieve?
Country: France, Spain, Germany
Genre: adaptation of the novel, drama
Year of production: 2006
Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Carolina Herfurth
Tagline: He lived to find beauty. He killed to possess her. (He lived to find beauty. He killed to possess it)
In the film “Perfumer. The story of a murderer ”(German Das Parfum. Die Geschichte eines Mörders, Eng. Perfumer: The Story of a Murderer), based on the novel by Patrick Suskind, the main character is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a maniac with a rare natural gift. He considered the creation of a unique fragrance that gives universal power over people his life’s work. The plot and meaning of the film “Perfumer. The story of a murderer” is that the end does not justify the means, a natural gift is not always a blessing, and beauty can become both a blessing and a curse.
What is the movie about
The film “Perfumer. The story of a murderer “begins with a description of the gloomy scene of the trial of the protagonist. There is a raging crowd near the walls of the courthouse, everyone is demanding the execution of the convict. The young guy is taken to the balcony, the judge reads out the verdict: “The apprentice perfumer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille will be tied to the cross with his face to the sky. He will be struck with an iron rod that will shatter all joints and bones. After that, he will remain tied to the cross until he dies in agony. The executioner is forbidden to show him mercy in the form of strangulation.
Ben Whishaw as Jean Baptiste Grenouille. Frame from the film.
The following is the story of the protagonist from birth. Paris of the 16th century. In the middle of the market, right in the mountain of stinking fish giblets, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born. The mother threw it away like garbage, hoping that the baby would die immediately. But fate had its own plans for the boy. Passers-by found him and took him to an orphanage, where hungry children did not want to take another extra mouth and share with him an already meager food. They decided to strangle Grenouille with a pillow, but fate intervened again and averted trouble.
Jean Baptiste was different from others from an early age. He quickly realized that he had the ability to see the world in a special way, thanks to smells. His nose could recognize the smallest notes of any fragrance, decompose it into its components.
The boy loved, lying on the ground, to hear the smell of stones in the lake a few hundred meters from the shelter, to distinguish the aromas of frogs and plants in it. Nature rewarded him with a great gift, but the destitute, unfortunate child simply did not know what to do with him.
At the age of 13, Jean Baptiste became an apprentice in a leather tanner’s shop. While working, he listened to new smells every time, as if collecting them in his head.
One day, in the square, he met a young girl, whose fragrance immediately attracted his attention. She was beautiful and young, but Grenouille was only interested in this enchanting smell, which drove him crazy. In the end, in one of the dark Parisian back streets, he, no longer able to control himself, kills the beauty.
Rachel Hurd-Wood as Laura. Frame from the film.
Grenouille’s only task was somehow to keep her smell, to preserve its content. But a dead body loses its fragrance in a matter of minutes, this leads the young man to despair and becomes the beginning of his crazy idea – to learn how to preserve such aromas, so that later he can create the most perfect perfume in the world.
Fate brings Grenouille to the home of the famous perfumer Baldini. The Italian was once very much in demand, but now a new young perfumer is bypassing him, and the master is very worried.
The competitor created the perfume “Cupid and Psyche”, which all Paris goes crazy for. Baldini wants to recreate this fragrance and improve it, but nothing comes of it. And then Jean-Baptiste Grenouille invites him to create “Cupid and Psyche” right before his eyes.
At first, the master does not believe the young man, but intuitively understands that he is not just delirious. He allows Grenouille to use his laboratory. The guy begins to mix the ingredients by eye, without measurements and weights, which shocks Baldini. After a minute, the flavor is ready. The master takes a sample and realizes that this is “Cupid and Psyche”. The great perfumer does not believe his eyes, he cannot find an explanation for this, but he understands that this guy cannot be simply missed.
The role of Giuseppe Baldini was played by Dustin Hoffman. Frame from the film.
Grenouille becomes the master’s apprentice and begins to create the most enchanting fragrances for him, Baldini quickly becomes in demand again, money flows to him like a river. But the guy wants to learn how to “hold” smells. One day, he sets up an experiment by throwing pieces of glass, wood, flowers, grass, and even the owner’s cat into the apparatus for digesting essences. However, in the final, the resulting liquid does not smell of anything.
Grenouille asks the master to teach him how to preserve fragrances, but he says that he himself does not know how to do it. Realizing that he received all the knowledge he could from the master, Jean Baptiste asks to let him go to Grasse, where all the most famous perfumers in Europe studied.
The master does not immediately, but agrees on the condition that the guy will leave him dozens of recipes for new perfumes. The master does not know that the end of his life is already close. After Grenouille leaves, he dies under the rubble of his own house, smiling happily, with a notebook with perfume recipes clutched in his hands.
In Grasse, Grenouille becomes an apprentice to the widow of a famous perfumer. They have a whole laboratory for synthesizing flavors. Rose petals are loaded into a huge glass barrel and simmered for several days to obtain an essential oil. The guy decides to use this design in his own way. Having met a beauty on the street, he kills her and places the body in a barrel secretly from the owners. So he manages to get the first ingredient for his new perfume.
Alan Rickman as Laura’s father, Antoine Richy. Frame from the film.
According to Grenouille’s formula, there should be 13 fragrances of girls. Thus begins the story of the mysterious murders of young innocent beauties throughout the city. The people are horrified, the killer can neither be identified nor caught. Meanwhile, the young perfumer is close to his goal. 12 flavors collected, one missing. Jean Baptiste knows exactly which girl should be the last victim. This is Laura, the daughter of Antoine Richy, second consul of Grasse, the richest and most powerful man in France.
Antoine is smart and clearly understands that his daughter is in danger. He is the first to guess that the maniac takes the life of not all women indiscriminately, but only the most beautiful. The consul assumes that the dead make up some kind of collection, but cannot figure out which one. The head of the church assures him not to declare a curfew in the city, so as not to sow panic. Then Antoine decides to protect his daughter from the maniac by locking her in a castle.
Grenouille knows where Laura is. He is ready to do anything to get the last ingredient for his magical perfume. And one morning, entering his daughter’s bedroom, Antoine finds the girl dead with her hair cut off. He announces the pursuit of the criminal. He is overtaken on the outskirts of the city and thrown into a dungeon. Antoine personally interrogates the perfumer, he needs a clue. He asks the maniac: “Why did you kill my daughter?” Grenouille only repeats: “She was needed.”
The plot again returns to the scene of Grenouille’s execution. In the middle of the square there is a pedestal where the executioner and Jean Baptiste rise. The crowd chants: “Death to the heretic!”, “Burn in hell!”. And then Grenouille takes a bottle of perfume out of his pocket, drips a little on a handkerchief and waves it in the air. People in the crowd start to go crazy, they call him an angel, even the bishop exclaims: “It’s an angel! He is not guilty!”. And a general orgy begins, an act of all-encompassing love, during which Grenouille is acquitted, and the case is closed.
Once free, Jean Baptiste goes to Paris. He comes to the very place where he was born – to a dirty, smelly market. Those around him look at him with suspicion and anger. Then he takes out a bottle of perfume and pours himself from head to toe. People around begin to stretch their hands towards him in a frenzy, calling him an angel, and then a crowd pounce on him and tear him to shreds. The next morning, only a pile of rags remains from the perfumer, and he himself disappears into oblivion.
Explanation of the ending of the film “Perfumer. The story of a murderer ”is not difficult to understand by tracing the life path of Grenouille from childhood. He never knew true love, he saw only deprivation, poverty and debauchery, devastation and ugliness in all its manifestations. All he was looking for was beauty. He longed to keep her fragrance forever, for the sake of this he went to terrible crimes. But when he received it, he realized that it would not make him happy. He is a monster that brings death and is unable to love anyone.
In the last shots, when Grenouille, who has escaped trial, is heading to Paris, a voice is heard behind the scenes. These are lines from a book by Patrick Suskind: “Jean Baptiste still had enough spirits to bewitch the whole world. He could go to Versailles and the king would kiss his feet. He could send a perfumed letter to the Pope, and he would declare him the new Messiah. He had a power greater than the power of money, terror or death. But the spirits could not make him a man who loves himself and can be loved. So, to hell with the world, to hell with yourself.
The meaning of the film
Patrick Suskind put a deep meaning into his work, which director Tom Tykwer managed to convey. The essence of the film “Perfumer. The story of one killer” is that any natural gift can be turned both for the benefit of oneself and society, and for harm.
But Grenouille is not a typical maniac. He has a goal, at first glance even noble – he is looking for true beauty. But does this justify the means by which he tries to achieve it?
Speaking about the perfumer’s inhuman experiment, Suskind draws a parallel with many great scientists and the question of the morality of science itself. Is their work always safe for people, is it possible to justify the sacrifices behind this by the progress of mankind?
In the end, Grenouille was not a product of evil, he was only looking for a hidden meaning in everything, wanting to find love. His methods were terrible, but he did not know how else to get something that would bring him closer to a sense of happiness.
Frame from the film.
- “The Illusionist”, USA, Czech Republic, 2005. The story of the great illusionist named Eisenheim, whose magic amazed even kings.
- The Prestige, UK, USA, 2006. A story about two magicians-illusionists whose feud endangered peaceful life in Great Britain at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Vidocq, France, 2001. Brilliant detective Vidocq figures out a serial killer operating in Paris. The story of the mysterious Alchemist is similar to the movie “Perfume”, but here the maniac not only kills people, but also steals their souls.
- “The Raven”, USA, Spain, Hungary, 2011. An unexpected interpretation of the biography of the writer Edgar Allan Poe. He pursues a killer inspired by his own books.