Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Once Upon a Time...so begins Tom Twyker's film based on Patrick Suskind's novel "Das Parfum" but we are not in Hans Anderson territory here. The Brothers Grimm were a darker shade but this film goes to a very dark place indeed. Within seconds of the film beginning I found myself thinking "Oh, no, let's not go there!" But we do, again and again. I genuinely felt uncomfortable with this film. Set in 18th Century France it tells the story of Jean-Baptiste, born quite literally in filth who grows up with an almost supernatural sense of smell and becomes obsessed with creating the perfect perfume. Sounds romantic? No, this is a horror film far more horrible and disturbing than any more obvious genre piece produced in tinsel town. Twyker has no mercy on his audience, our expectaions are shattered, our stomach's tested. There is no relief for the characters either as one by one there closeness to Jean-Baptiste decides their fate - one character achieves his moment of complete happiness only to have his house collapse on him!The tone of the film is set b John Hurt's off-screen narration and the unhurried pace that Twyker allows himself to unfold his tale. The film's three central performances are superb from Tom Whishaw's Jean-Baptiste - totally devoid of any human emotion and dedicated to his exceedingly unpleasant quest, to Dustin Hoffman's wonderful Perfumier and Alan Rickman's voice of reason. The climax of the film took an unexpected turn that I certainly didn't see coming and was unsure about but oddly it works. The great Luis Bunuel would have adored the final reel (and, no doubt the whole film). Great photograph, locations, set design, music etc all add to the final result. Others may not go as far but I think it one of the best films I've seen for a long time. Rating ****

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