Friday, December 15, 2006


Just last night, I went to see the movie adaptation of Patrick Süskinds Das Parfum, named Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Having read the book roughly ten years ago, I found that the movie was very true to the book. However, if you haven't read the book, some parts of the movie might not make much sense to you. I won't go into any of the details here (so no spoilers) but the gist of the story is about a boy named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who possesses an extraordinary sense of smell. After he discovers he has no smell of his own, he endeavors to create one, being the world's most perfect perfume. Throughout the book, he becomes more and more disgusted with mankind, isolating himself for years in a deserted cave before re-entering the world and learn about the technique that will enable him to create his perfect perfume.

I read this book when I was in highschool when I was about 16, and it impressed me in the same way that Spider-Man impresses me: he can do something that no one else can (except Tobey Maguire uses his skills for good). The story goes through different stages, and this makes for a very enthralling movie. Even moreso than the book.
However, when it was time for my book exams, surprise surprise, my German teacher did not just touch upon this book, he dived into it. And took me with him. Apparently, there was a deeper meaning to the story that I had not understood. That I had completely missed, even. Instead of focusing on the several books of Kafka (and reviews, and documentaries) that I had read like I expected, he completely teared me apart of some bullshit allegory that was hidden in the Perfume book. Supposedly the entire thing was somehow an allegory for a teen growing up in puberty, going through several stages of mental maturity, blah blah blah. I failed the book exam very, very thoroughly. (On the other hand, I completely aced the written national exams, balancing my grade out nicely.)

So as you can expect, I was very anxious to see if anyone else could see the hidden meaning of the story after it was made into a movie. Surely, the movie critics know a lot about the stories movies tell, and their deeper meaning? Those guys, who have seen hundreds of movies, will see the hidden meaning of Perfume within a minute? Right??


I have looked at every movie critic's review I could find. I have read all of them very thoroughly, skipping over the parts that praise Tom Tykwer for making a great costume drama with the budget he had, praising the beautiful close-ups of the murdered girls, and the performance of the lead characters, Ben Whiskaw and Alan Rickman. I even read the Wikipedia pages about the book and the movie, and the story's deeper meaning is mentioned NOWHERE. It's not there. I really doubt all the movie critics, as well as myself, can be wrong. It's not there.

So it is with absolute great pleasure that I can finally say, after ten years, to my old German teacher:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny that I was also 16 when I read "Das parfum" for German and likewise my teacher got me to notice all the tiny little details and quirks that I had completely missed in the book and everyday I thought there could really be no more to this book, he kept on pulling out more and more, till I had to go check it out for myself. I think the problem you're having here dude is that you're putting to much confidents into the Film, check out some of the Literary Book reviews. you shouldn't hang onto how other people interpret the book as if there is one great secret coded meaning in it rather, just find the meaning for yourself. Perhaps this is exactly what the books about, perhaps the Author wanted to leave us thinking about it, I mean if it still has its effects after ten years it must of had something. I think the problem lies less with the book than with your teacher.( Personally I also just saw the film and I don't think its portrayed the story very well)
PS: though comparing the book to teenage mental growth does sound a bit strange.