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Scent Translates to Screen

Posted: January 22, 2007

“Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” brings Patrick Süskind’s international best seller to the screen 20 years after its initial publication and literary success. Laced with suspense and black humor, the film aims to depict a sense that cinema can’t reproduce—the power of scent. The film is both repulsive and mesmerizing, and it is probably this sensory assault that enables viewers to “smell” the fish market, tannery, lavender fields, etc. In addition, it depicts the job of a perfumer, which is often overlooked by everyday consumers. While Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s method of capturing scent (enfleuraging the bodies of dead women) is disturbing, the viewer gets an idea of what a perfumer’s job was like back in the 18th century and the methods perfumers used to extract scents. Here, drom perfumer Pierre-Constantin Gueros provides P&Fnow with his impression of the movie and how (or whether) it captured the art of perfumery.

We would love to get your feedback on the movie. Do you feel the movie captured the art of perfumery? What is your overall opinion of the film? E-mail us with your comments at kfrederick@allured.com.

Bringing Scent to Scene

I really think that “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” succeeds very well at providing the spectator with olfactive impressions. While perfumery is not the main theme of the movie (it’s finally a serial killer movie), it somehow describes the immaterial power of odors. The voiceover throughout the movie helps to describe the scents, but the film also makes it possible to ‘smell with the eyes.’ The director uses a lot of interesting tricks to achieve this: aerial shots (to give an idea of volume and diffusion of odors), bright colors (to show intensity) and graphic beauty (olfactive impressions). In addition, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille does not speak often and when he does it is in very short sentences. This helps the viewer to focus on other senses.

Creating an Accord