In a twist of fate, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw – The Merchant of Venice, Layer Cake) is born without a sense of odor and yet he goes on to become a master perfume maker in 18th century Paris. He is a perfectionist or obsessed, depending on how you choose to look at him, and so he is constantly searching for the best scents. As a young man, Grenouille is taught the craft of perfume making by a washed up older man named Baldini (Dustin Hoffman – Stranger Than Fiction, Rain Man). Baldini can see immediately that his young protégé has more talent than he ever did. Grenouille is never satisfied with his work and pushes himself further and further to find unique scents. He does not seem to have a limit he will go to to find them.
Somehow, despite the interesting story based on the very popular novel by Patrick Suskind, the film ends up being director Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior). It is an orgy of cinematography, camera work, sets, score, costumes, and pictures. The way Tykwer films the story he succeeds in making the viewer smell all the scents and perfumes created. This is an integral part of the film. You feel what all the characters are feeling due to the high quality filmmaking without it being necessary for much dialogue (much of the story is told by a narrator). Many might go into the film, especially after reading the novel, doubting that someone could do it justice on screen, but Tykwer has managed just that. He manages to make films that are small and brilliant and I hope that some studio with a big budget does not compromise his obvious talent. After watching this film you realize that it is possible to make a good serial killer film without blood and guts. You just need some tension and good filming…remember the imagination usually does a better job than a film can. The entire cast is also great with Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman turning in nice supporting performances and the young lead, Ben Whishaw, doing much with a role without much dialogue. He turns in tough performance of a character we are not sure we like because of his genius or hate due to his mental instability. Have patience with this 'art' film and don't be disappointed with its ending…think about it!
-The Story of Perfume