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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet. Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Jan
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
from Film Forum, 01/18/07

Director Tom Tykwer made a name for himself with the stylish Run Lola Run. And fans of Krzysztof Kieslowski were impressed with Tykwer's adaptation of a Kieslowski script—Heaven.

But style may not be enough to win many admirers for Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Tykwer's adaptation of Patrick Suskind's 1985 best-seller.

The movie follows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), a young man growing up in France in the 18th-century, where he is blessed—or afflicted, as the case may be—with powerful olfactory ability. Yes, he can smell things a mile away. And the film focuses on vivid images of everything he can smell, which may be an unpleasant experience for the audience.

The film is earning mixed reviews from Christian critics.

Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) writes, "Tykwer's artful adaptation … shows sensitivity in telling a story which could be utterly repellent in other hands, and without justifying the terrible deeds, succeeds in illuminating the protagonist's strange motivation with Christian—love the sinner, hate the sin—compassion. … Reasonably restrained in its overt violence, the film will nonetheless not be to every taste and should be approached with caution."

Greg Wright (Past the Popcorn) is impressed, but that doesn't mean he liked it. "Not since Barry Lyndon has a period piece been so startlingly realized. … The first half of Perfume plays like a gritty and literate commentary on the dilemma of an artist. … [But] Tykwer deliberately leaves the moral framework of the narration tottering back in the hills. Where is the audience left? Sitting in the dark, wondering if the movie's second half is some nihilistic lesson on the futility of capturing the essence of beauty and life."

Mainstream critics aren't too fond of this one, and some seem downright allergic.

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