Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) is a film based on the 1985 novel Perfume by German author Patrick Süskind. Both the film and the novel tell the story of apprentice parfumier Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is a disturbed young man with an extraordinary sense of smell and no personal body scent.
Grenouille becomes fixated with the idea of capturing the perfect smell, and begins murdering young virgins in order to procure their scent - so that he can use it to create his ultimate perfume.
Prominent themes in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer include:
- Alienation and hatred for humanity: Grenouille is an outcast from society, alienated by his super-human sense of smell, his body's lack of scent and the murderous acts he commits. Isolated and without friends, Grenouille begins to resent humanity and all it represents.
- The importance of smell: Scent in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is important on a subconscious level, and is often symbolic: Grenouille creates what he sees as a 'human' smell (using cat feces, cheese and vinegar) so that humans will accept him as one of their own. This way of using scent to decide whether to accept or reject a person is similar to the way mothers in the animal kingdom will reject offspring if they do not smell 'right'. The idea that smell alone is enough to make Grenouille 'acceptable' raises questions as to the nature of society itself.
- Death: Grenouille's life begins in a pile of rotting fish, with the beheading of his mother following shortly afterwards. In fact, everyone with whom Grenouille comes into contact seems to die, and the film ends when he dies himself.