Perfume: The Story of a Murderer Nick 971055 Lara 971204 Jason 971046
The Novel • Author: Patrick Süskind • Published: 1986 • Translated from German to English by John E. Woods
The Film • Director: Tom Twyker • Screenwriter: Andrew Birkin • Actors: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman • Year of Release: 2006
Storyline Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born in the stench of eighteenth century Paris, develops a superior olfactory sense, which he uses to create the world's finest perfumes. His work, however, takes a dark turn as he tries to preserve scents in the search for the ultimate perfume.
Cinematic Techniques Discussed: • Cinematography • Sound • Mise-en-scéne
Cinematography “Then the child awoke. Its nose awoke first. The tiny nose moved, pushed upward, and sniffed. It sucked air in and snorted it back out in short puffs, like an imperfect sneeze. Then the nose wrinkled up, and the child opened its eyes …The child with no smell was smelling at him shamelessly, that was it! It was establishing his scent!” (17-18) “From the first day, the new arrival gave them the creeps. They avoided the box in which he lay and edged closer together in their beds as if it had grown colder in the room. Others dreamed something was taking their breath away. One day the older ones conspired to suffocate him. They piled rags and blankets and straw over his face and weighed it all down with bricks.” (23-24)
Cinematography • Extreme close-ups • High/Low angles subjective views • Selective focus • Telephoto lens • Offscreen space
Sound “When he had smelled his fill of the thick gruel of the streets, he would go to airier terrain, where the odours were thinner, mixing with the wind as they unfurled, much as perfume does--to the market of Les Halles, for instance, where the odours of the day lived on into the evening, invisibly but ever so distinctly, as if the vendors still swarmed among the crowd, as if the baskets still stood there stuffed full of vegetables and eggs, or the casks full of wine and vinegar, the sacks with their spices and potatoes and flour, the crates of nails and screws, the meat tables, the tables full of doth and dishes and shoe soles and all the hundreds of other things sold there during the day... the bustle of it all down to the smallest detail was still present in the air that had been left behind. Grenouille saw the whole market smelling, if it can be put that way”(36).
Sound • Loudness • Rhythm • Nondiegetic Sound Narrator Musical Score
Mise-en-Scéne “For a moment he was so confused that he actually thought he had never in all his life seen anything so beautiful as this girl – although he only caught her from behind in silhouette against the candlelight. He meant, of course, he had never smelled anything so beautiful. But since he knew the smell of humans, knew it a thousandfold, men, women, children, he could not conceive of how such an exquisite scent could be emitted by a human being” (43).
Mise-en-Scéne • Lighting Low-key Illumination • Costume • Make-up
References • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Dir. Tom Twyker. Perf. Ben Whishaw and Dustin Hoffman. Constantin Films, 2007. • Süskind, Patrick. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Trans. John E. Woods. London: Penguin, 1987.