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Perfume: the Story of a Murderer


Stars: Ben Whishaw, Rachel Hurd Wood, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman

Director: Tom Tykwer

After a heavily detailed beginning full of horrible images and gruesome scenes. Tom Tykwer's black fable set in a mucky 18th-century France will either grip you or bore you silly according to your reaction to its content.

Grenouille (newcomer Whishaw), an orphan sold to a brutal tanner, leads a harsh life until his supernormal sense of smell - he can sniff out human scents miles away - leads him to an apprenticeship with a master parfumier (Hoffman) fallen on hard times. Grenouille's olfactory expertise has soon restored him to his former glory.

At the same time, the boy has already begun murdering beautiful young girls, in his search for the perfect scent. 'For the first time in his life,' drones the narrator (John Hurt), 'Grenouille realised he had no smell of his own.'

By this time, you will either be hooked or have given up and devotees will surely be ready to forgive a monumentally absurd ending, having followed our anti-hero as he closes in, like Dracula, on his final intended victim (Hurd Wood), despite the best efforts of her father (Rickman) to stop him.

Mr Whishaw has a brooding presence although, unlike his character, he seems destined on this form not to go on to greater things. For the unenthused, relief from boredom is briefly provided by Hoffman as the faded popinjay who sells his soul to the devil to re-ascend his perfumed throne.

David Quinlan

Germany/France/Spain 2006. UK Distributor: Path?. Colour by Kodak.
148 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Dec 2006