23/09/2006

Movie time

Being the royalist that I am, I hope to catch The Queen during my upcoming stay in London from Sunday to Wednesday.

But before I do, I'd like to share my view of Das Parfum with you. I am talking about the film version of Patrick Süskind's bestseller, of course. It's a serial killer crime story about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an 18th century Parisian X-man avant la lettre. His special power is that he has an overly acute and analytical nose, plus he is entirely devoid of any personal body odour. Thus lacking of an olfactory personality himself, he goes on to collect all possible sorts of scents, which conclusively leads him to becoming a master perfumer. However, to cure his personal deficit, he starts to compose a miraculous perfume consisting of the essence of thirteen beautiful young women, for whose survival in the scent extracting process of enfleurage he has no concern whatsoever. In this endeavour, he is inspired by his master's tale of a mythological egyptian perfume which, when released, made everyone love its wearer. Allegedly, it consisted of thirteen components, the last of which remained unknown.

While the book is well made, it struck me as overly artistic and metaphorical when I read it - so I was never really convinced. The movie however is a different story. The camera & direction are superb, the acting is fine (with the notable exception of a rather disappointing Alan Rickman); setting and atmosphere seem ingeniously authentic. The frequent heartbeats in the soundtrack did get on my nerves occasionally, though. The film is a great rendition of an essentially "German" (by way of its author) story in that it has for object the pursuit of an ideal goal without moral considerations or compassion. Süskind's "Gollum" Grenouille is completely absorbed in the banality of his wrongdoing, and we pity him for it! Not even the perfume induced mass orgies towards the end appear particularly absurd - they just put on display the penchant of the masses to be manipulated & seduced, for everyone to see.

This I think is the key deficit of the film relative to the book, and it is altering the message: The film character of Grenouille comes across as almost innocent, naïve and pitiable, whereas in the book, he is perfectly repulsive! But apart from that, the Perfume is a very entertaining and very "European" movie.

3 comments:

Smaran said...

You have sparked my interest, I now want to watch the movie. Is it in German? Das Parfum clearly indicates a German presence in the movie, but you never know these days, I could end up watching a French flick.

Chris said...

Funny you should ask that, because some people complained about it being in English rather than in the more authentic French - which I objected to, of course.

Smaran said...

Well I'd skip it if it were in French, but I'm gonna watch it now. Das Parfum!