31 Horror Films #16: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 2006 Dir. Tom Tykwer

Last year I did a series of daily micro blogs going through the history of horror films by year. This was meant to give people an example of the high points of the genre. This year I'll be doing the same thing, but going off the beaten path to provide some films you may not have heard of. These films may not be up your alley, but they're all interesting.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 2006 Dir. Tom Tykwer

I had never heard of this film before my sister lent it to me two years ago, I am glad she did because it is one of the most sumptuously beautiful films I've ever seen, it's expertly written, directed and the actors deliver first rate performances.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, follows the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a young man who has a preternaturally developed sense of smell; to put it mildly, he is an olfactory genius. We witness his birth and abandonment in a French fish market, his time as an awkward child in an orphanage before being employed in a tannery. While making a leather delivery in Paris he nearly drowns in the cauldron of new and exciting smells, however his attention is caught by a young red-haired woman. When Jean-Baptiste sniffs her, she draws back attempting to run away. In an effort to keep the woman quiet, Jean-Baptiste accidentally smothers her. It is then that the young man realizes that the young woman's scent has faded with her life. Soon, a delivery takes Jean-Baptiste to a perfumery where he thrills the owner with his olfactory gift, being able to recreate a popular scent from memory. After this encounter, the young man becomes the perfumer's apprentice in exchange for an education in preserving scents. You see, Jean-Baptiste has become obsessed with recreating the scent of the young red-headed woman and it is this obsession that drives the plot of the film, taking our protagonist from lowly orphan to a crazed artist willing to destroy in order to create.

Perfume shares a lot of DNA with Frankenstein in that like Victor (or Henry) Frankenstein, we find ourselves repulsed by Jean-Baptiste's obsession, however we also get caught in his goals and want to see what happens when he makes the most perfect perfume, even if he has to murder thirteen virgin women to complete his masterpiece.

It is this correlation between art and madness that makes Perfume to damn compelling. Jean-Baptiste is a tragic figure that no one will ever understand, possessed by both genius and a single-mindedness that is admirable and repulsive in equal measure. He is Frankenstein and the monster in a single body, a character that represents the very highest in human ability, with its beauty and its horror.

Watch the trailer HERE