In 1985 Patrick Süskind’s only novel „Perfume” was published. The book, a mix-up of the two genres criminal and formation story is one of the most successful German publications of the 20th century. In 2006 Tom Tykwer adapted Jean Baptiste Grenouille’s story for cinemas.
Jean Baptiste Grenouille is born unwanted. His mother is arrested for the attempt of murdering him. He is sent to an orphanage. For a long time he doesn’t learn how to speak, it’s enough for him to smell the world.
After he worked for a tanner he takes up an apprenticeship at Guiseppe Baldini’s perfumery where he learns how to preserve smells. After his education he gets a journeyman’s certificate and goes to Grasse the heaven for perfumers.
After arriving there he gets to know the art of “enfleurage”, a conservation of smells with grease. Driven by his wish to create the world’s best perfume he begins to murder young women in order to transform the odour into perfume. After he killed the 25th girl he is arrested. When ascending the scaffold he’s wearing his perfume. It smells so lovely that all the people present declare him innocent.
Jean Baptiste Grenouille goes back to Paris where he pours the rest of his perfume over his head. Right then and there he is eaten up by the people. But those people didn’t feel any guilt afterwards. For once in their life the felt like they had done something out of love.
Book vs. Movie:
Patrick Süskind tells the story with an unbelievable intensity that makes it impossible to put down the book. He manages to capture the craziness of his protagonist in way that fascinates you.
The movie was made relatively well, the main actor Ben Wishaw plays outstandingly. Unfortunately the movie differs from the book in several moments and in my opinion several important passages have been left out in the movie.
If you read the book I’m quite sure the movie will disappoint you as the novel is simply much more detailed and leave more things to your own fantasy. It gives you a better insight in the psyche of the crazy Grenouille and therefore allows you to comprehend his thoughts, motives and reasons better than in the film.
The movie itself is quite good. If you haven’t read the book the film is surely interesting and worth watching.