Sunday, 24 January 2010


Director: Tom Tykwer
Running time: 147 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 24th January 2010.


This is the second time I’ve seen this film, but the first time I’ve attempted a review. I admit I loved the film first time around and, I’m very pleased to say, I haven’t changed my opinion of it on a second viewing. Based on a novel by Patrick Süskind it tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and his quest for the ultimate perfume.

Set in the early 1800’s in Paris where Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born under a fish stall in a market. He is quickly orphaned, but has an extraordinary sense of smell. He just smells everything, piecing together the world around him by its odours. At thirteen he is sold by the orphanage to a tanner, where he works long and hard. One day he is chosen by the owner to go into the city on deliveries with him. This exposes Jean-Baptiste to even more scents and he finds one scent irresistible, that of a young woman selling fruit. So taken is he that he follows her and, before he knows it, in trying to keep her quiet while a couple walk by, he accidentally suffocates her. This doesn’t appear to matter to Jean-Baptiste, he now sniffs every part of her, trying to get her scent, but eventually it fades. Now he has a purpose, to discover how to capture and keep the scent of a woman. As fate would have it, he has to deliver to an old perfumer, Giuseppe Baldini, who is down on his luck. Jean-Baptiste demonstrates his abilities by divining the ingredients of a rival’s perfume and even improving on it. Baldini is so impressed, he buys Jean-Baptiste from the tanner and they begin to work together. Jean-Baptiste persuades Baldini to teach him everything he knows about making perfumes if he makes scents for him. Having learned everything he can from Baldini, but not the thing he really wants to know, Jean-Baptiste leaves for the town of Grasse where Baldini says he can get what he wants. Arriving there, Jean-Baptiste soon learns new techniques in capturing aromas and, after a few failed experiments, he perfects a way to capture the scent of a woman. What follows are a series of mysterious murders and Jean-Baptiste puts together the thirteen scents he needs to make the most perfect perfume. He has his sights on the last scent, that of Laura, the daughter of the well to do, Richis, who, in order to protect his daughter takes her away from the town, not knowing the Jean-Baptiste is in hot pursuit. I won’t say any more about the plot, I think that’s enough for one day!

This film is beautifully shot, has an epic plot and is very well performed and I don’t understand why it isn’t more highly rated. Yes, it’s a little too long, but I’ve found it enthralling both times I’ve seen it. Excellent performances from all of the leading cast, Ben Whishaw as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, Dustin Hoffman as Giuseppe Baldini, Rachel Hurd-Wood as Laura, Alan Rickman as Richis and John Hurt as the narrator.

There is a scene near the end of the film where Jean-Baptiste is about to be executed and, if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean; it’s one of the most beautifully imagined scenes I’ve ever seen. As I’ve already said, the film is a bit too long, but apart from that I can find little else wrong with it. If you can spare the time I urge you to watch this film, hopefully you’ll thank me!

My score: 8.7/10

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