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Essay on "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer"

The 2006 “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” narrates the story of Grenouille (Ben Whishaw): a low-class olfactory genius who develops a strange hankering for a perfect scent. This Crime/Drama film is a classic example of theater content with considerable amounts of strengths than weaknesses within its style of filming. Indeed, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” responds to the filmmaker’s struggle to balance between ethics and individual’s desires. For instance, Grenouille battles repressed personality characteristics triggered into action through unexpected turn events. The film portrays the protagonist as a psychopath, as a fighting a force that is threatening to bring out the best in him through a dark side. The picture employs various filmic elements to prove “Perfume” filmmakers succeeded tremendously in venturing into untouched dimensions of cinema: recreating the world of scent through the visual sense of smell.

Tykwer’s well-chosen cast of professional actors demonstrates an asset to the film thus vital to its overall success. Their prior training, rather than overpowering, assists them in placing themselves firmly in their designated characters. For example, the director shows a great ability in choosing and creating the protagonist in Ben Whishaw as Grenouille. Indeed, the idea of having Whishaw on board resulted to the perfect embodiment of both a murderer and an innocent angel. “Perfume” displays a number of societal issues through its creative acting and style. The symbolic form of acting reveals itself through an adaptation of a plot based upon an obsession and the intensive exploration of human limitations. For instance, the character of Grenouille imprints in its viewers given situations where art and ingenuity grows beyond personal struggles (Bradshaw, 2006).  

It becomes almost hard to imagine that a film of this caliber would miss acting skills in a remarkable texture using excellent characters. Thus, the interesting performance of Whishaw as a young Grenouille whose strange sense of smell becomes a curse provides a charismatic act. Wishaw’s guise as an actor brings out the perfect 18th century Grenouille as a complex human. The hero selfishly thinks of nothing else other that the ultimate composition of his perfume. In any ordinary case, Grenouille would be a sympathetic serial killer that preys on women with an aim of satisfying an unknown urge.

However, the film does not offer him the role of a mere psychopath, but an individual in need of killing women for his perfume experiments. The other actors play their part in placing Whishaw on the edge of this genius and monster. Indeed, all supporting personages offer adequate contributions to the creation of a perfect setting of 18th century France. The cast shows a characteristic colorful backdrop of time to an age where the irony in scent and beauty exists in various environments. Evidently, the film is a collection of talent that utilizes distinctive expressions and theatrical moves (Cahir, 2006).

 In Whishaw, for instance, lies an individual with the capability of creating a repulsive Grenouille through unveiling a monstrous character with poor interpersonal skills. Such abilities and acting effects help in developing the dire consequences of perfumer’s olfactory greed. Having been introduced as the film’s central character, Grenouille gets high levels of artifice in covering up the need for excellent acting. This provides a complement to the use of deep focusing as a cinematography technique. Both the acting and cinematography combine so excellently that the ultimate control Tykwer gets over his cast becomes justified (Bradshaw, 2006).

The film uses creative storytelling elements, as well. With the acting nearly as historical, Perfume represents a past realistic period. This has allowed the protagonist to age as the story progresses. A majority of crime/drama films act as copyright representations of the society we live in. Feature films, therefore, have the story-telling role of using facts from character and historical events in inspiring their audiences. Indeed, Perfume tells the story of events believed to have happened in 18th century France. The narrator introduces the protagonist, an obsessive perfumer, just before he is sentenced to hang. The audience soon learns that Grenouille was born with an abnormal sense of smell thus the ability to harness the best kinds of scents (Bradshaw, 2006).

The picture progresses as Grenouille toils away his childhood from the fish market to Grimal’s tannery and to Baldini’s cosmetic shop. It is almost an enchanted film, which introduces its audience to a world build around an obsession with scents and smell: a captivating tale! The director’s success in portraying the main character’s obsession as it gradually turns into a power capable of exposing the extreme qualities of love and compassion. When he discovers the unique scent of the female body, Grenouille ironically finds it impossible to connect socially with the opposite sex (Sterritt, 2012).

The story takes its first formidable turn when Grenouille gets the scent of a market woman and proceeds to strangle her. Instead of taking a linear trend, Perfume unfolds in overlapped scenes that provide more knowledge as the narrator tells his story. While on the hunt for the significant ingredient for the world’s most perfect perfumes, Grenouille’s drive prompts him into becoming a notorious serial killer. By use of overlapped scenes, he is filmed sniffing at a naked feminine corpse. His frustration shows a desperate attempt of human scent preservation. After an intensive persuasion, Grenouille convinces Baldini (a renowned perfumer) into taking him in as an apprentice. Grenouille’s later travels to Southern France further unleash the monster within (Bradshaw, 2006).

Having mastered the art of effleurage, Grenouille continues to kill young girls serially: an act that results in the creation of the world’s most elusive perfume. Eventually, he murders the young beautiful daughter of a local merchant; an action that leads to his downfall. The storytelling element is vastly shown using narration as the movie switches in between scenes. The narrator’s objective is to incorporate his voice to these past events thus convincing the audience of the film’s setting, purpose and an ending full of suspense. The suspense at the end creates an enigma out of Grenouille leaving behind an audience with fewer answers than questions. Similarly, the unexplained disappearance of Grenouille promises to invoke more sympathy than contempt (Cahir, 2006).

“Perfume” makes notable cinematic advances on the character and purpose based on numerous platforms. The film’s most intriguing contribution to cinematography comes from the utilization of the deep focusing technique. Deep focusing entails having every scenic detail within one frame. This technique eliminates the drawbacks associated with camera concentration on only those elements that lie in the foreground. It requires that cinematographers combine lighting, camera lens, and composition to create the desired effect. With deep focusing, the filmmaker has the ability of displaying overlapping events. This shows, therefore, the importance of mise-en-scène (the physical setting) in the making of movies (Plantinga, 2009).

Effective manipulation of the filming scenery for deep focusing actively engages the entire frame space without leaving the audience confused. Deep focusing is the most effective in those scenes that portray Grenouille’s loss of personality control and social isolation. This is because it offers viewers a clear perspective of the areas the protagonist commands as well as those in which he lacks the power of control. The director describes “Perfume” as made up of a richly dark aesthetic after the lack of adequate lighting for its time and the flow of its storyline. Thus, the film begins with a monochromatic color that gradually warms up, as Grenouille gets closer to his ultimate discovery (Sterritt, 2012).

A perfect presentation of such instances occurs in scenes that depict the main hero’s movement from one dwelling to the next. In this case, the filmmakers destroy past scenes and effectively add more light to their next counterparts. They use additional light and powerful colors in the sets, lighting, and costumes. This gives an impression of Grenouille’s improved experiences with scents. However, one major challenge in the filming was to expose the smells and scents that portrayed the central character’s experiences. This is because the director wants “Perfume” to become more of a film teaching about the role of smells in society than a smelly film. Therefore, the makers worked hard at conveying a visual smell with a little help from colors and special effects. For instance, the initial sight of the fish market filled with raw fish and sewage brings out the effect of dirt and stink (Cahir, 2006).

Contrarily, the use of flowers such as lavenders and roses convey wonderful smells. The filming of Grenouille picking up scents by cupping his nose on close range results adds up to the effective conveyance of visual smells. Indeed, none of the historical movies in my collection brings out the visual stench and dirt of cities as does Perfume. The cinematographer achieves in recreating 18th century Paris as he compares lower and upper class environments. From the moment the movie began, one is struck by the imagery and the effectiveness of visuals in portraying the sense of smell; something that hardly is transmitted effectively in cinema (Plantinga, 2009).

The achievement of this film to do so marks a new dawn in the film industry. Numerous critics suggest this essay’s subject, through its innovativeness in using shadow lighting, is one of the most notable medieval thriller films. This genre uses dark and moody ambience in depicting violent and mysterious events under course. Apart from the modest success and controversy the film stirred in the US, its mixture of effective innovations makes Perfume one of the most interesting movies of 2006 (Bradshaw, 2006).

Editing shows the creative potential of a cinematographer in changing between scenes with clarity. One such innovation as used in the film is image wiping. This is where a scene is wiped off the screen through the introduction of another. Similarly, the strategic camera positioning facilitates in-between-scene cutting for continuity. The objective of the filmmakers revolves around the incorporation of the cast’s voices within its context. They, therefore, practice editing deception in a bid to make a compelling film. A more practice editing technique is the concealment of certain scenes to continue filming other scenes. The genius in director Tykwer reveals itself through the smooth evocation of a medieval world filled with gross vices. Editing, hence, brings out the comparison between crude human appetites and natural stinks. In medieval France, perfumes worked as the representation of goodness used to hide the city’s stench (Sterritt, 2012).

The way Tykwer composes and changes between soundtracks creates a situation where the audience is treated to a completely new cinematic experience. His choice of sound and music would trigger the viewer’s imagination through its bizarre invitation to a macabre fantasy world. The vivid visual effects, realistic sound and an interesting choice of music threaten to bring out the practical smell of most scenes. Indeed, the ambience brings one as close as possible to acquiring Grenouille’s elusive sense of smell in a magical way. As a one of a kind allegorical tale about industrialization and perfection, Perfume leaves behind a spell of extraordinary happenings that take over its audience’s interest for more expressive sounds (Bradshaw, 2006).

The story portrays a complicated medieval world of smells in the eyes of a low-class genius. Therefore, the director’s work is to create a style that makes Grenouille an interwoven form of Messiah, Monster, and Societal Menace. Perfume is styled with extraordinary instances of beauty and audacity. This historical tale proves quite an unusual film choice: based on the wide range of themes, it has been shrunk into a single feature film length. Yet, the writers’ ability of transforming the novel into the motion picture reveals possible realism that provokes sensual delight. In general, the film is styled in a smarter way than would be a typical tale on the life of a serial killer (Plantinga, 2009).

The director attains the heights of a film adaptation through the development of the kind of sharpness that most individuals understand better on books than motion pictures. He promises to redevelop a medieval world that his cast live in while adding interesting amounts of melodrama. The film’s solid sense of direction strengthens the audience’s sense of smell through captivating pictures and music. The sharp comparisons between life and death leading to ludicrous orgy scenes do not signify sex and violence as portrayed in most films (Bradshaw, 2006).

 It, contrarily, becomes the film’s vital point of counter attacking such exploitation concerns. For example, Grenouille’s world seems abnormally and perversely seductive with occasional infusions of suspense. Additionally, the use of creepy scenes not only shows him at work, but also the cause and consequences of his actions. The above discussion portrays “Perfume” as a motion picture that exposes numerous societal concerns in an extremely creative style. It is adapted to tackle a specific form of obsession and a vicious circle that results from human limitations. In my own opinion, the film takes the forms of an allegory thus exposing it to various interpretations among its audience (Sterritt, 2012).

It is widely known that each film has its own role to play when affecting directly to the society of viewers. The relationships between directors and their audiences can sometimes interfere with their subjective considerations. The major issue between Tykwer and the audience is that he delivers an honestly written medieval tale. Similar to other films, “Perfume” has received its share of negative criticism for the lack of adequate provocation.

However, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” shows more strength than weakness in influencing the global society and vice versa. For instance, it is natural that people, rather creatures, like Grenouille have no friends and family. Evidently, he is shown having a few conversations, a majority of which is primary and immature. His life, as widely expected, is inferior leaving the narrator as the sole establisher on the turnout of events. It is a dark thriller film, which concentrates on a serial killer with an obsession so wild and unique that it locks out all human aspects (Plantinga, 2009).

Even though, it is majorly visual, the film does an excellent job in comparing Grenouille and his peers in the current world. The viewing society can rarely understand individuals like him, yet they become interested in his story. Tykwer decides against dressing Grenouille in clean clothing for the film’s perfect depiction of a shadowy character. Whishaw displays a character only stoppable through a deeper savage consumption. Indeed, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” succeeds tremendously in venturing into untouched dimensions of cinema: recreating the world of scent through the sense of smell.

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