Saturday, 13 February 2016
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)
"Because it's a legend, you numbskull!"
I must have read Patrick Suskind's novel back in the late '90s, so my memories are hazy. I remember liking it, but little else. Huge Nirvana fan that I am, though, I'm well aware that "Scentless Apprentice" on In Utero is entirely about the novel, the only novel that Kurt Cobain ever wrote a song about.
But what of the film? Well, they did the best they could- it's well-shot, well-acted, well-made- but there's no getting around the fact that the book is unfilmable. The visuals are sumptuous, yes, especially of Provence, but it is the olfactory, not the visual, that is the point. A film cannot convey smell in the way that words on a page can. This is a valiant attempt at the impossible.
Still, as I said, it's a well-made film. Ben Whishaw is very good, John Hurt's narration is excellent, Dustin Hoffman gets a fun little part, and the harshness of eighteenth century France is conveyed well. But the very oddness and creepiness of Jean-Baptistery Grenooulle as a character leads to a lack of charisma at the centre of the film, something that matters less to the novel. However gorgeous this film looks it is, ultimately, a failure.