Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Critics Consensus

Perfume is what you'd expect from a Tom Twyker-directed movie glamorizing a serial killer: a kinetic visual feast, with a dark antihero that's impossible to feel sympathy for.



Total Count: 127


Audience Score

User Ratings: 266,432
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Movie Info

"Perfume" is a terrifying story of murder and obsession set in 18th-century France. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille has a unique talent for discerning the scents and smells that swirl around him, which he uses to create the world's finest perfumes. Strangely lacking any scent of his own, he becomes obsessed with capturing the irresistible but elusive aroma of young womanhood. As Grenouille's obsession turns deadly, 12 young girls are found murdered. Panic breaks out as people rush to protect their daughters, while an unrepentant and unrelenting Grenouille still lacks the final ingredient to complete his quest.

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Ben Whishaw
as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille
Dustin Hoffman
as Guiseppe Baldini
Alan Rickman
as Antoine Richis
Karoline Herfurth
as The Plum Girl
Artur Sala
as Gatekeeper
Sian Thomas
as Mme. Gaillard
Corinna Harfouch
as Mme. Arnulfi
Paul Berrondo
as Dominique Druot
Jan Cortes
as Boarding House Boy
Berta Ros
as Boarding House Girl
Alvaro Roque
as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille at 5 Years Old
Franck Lefeuvre
as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille at 12 Years Old
Joan Serrats
as Upholsterer
Laura Gelman
as Françoise
Anna Diogene
as Tallien's Wife
Toby Harper
as Police Lieutenant
Thomas Lennox
as Messenger
Francesca Piñón
as Innkeeper's Wife
Nico Baixas
as Torture Chamber Guard
Enric Arquimbau
as Executioner
Oriol Tramvia
as Land Priest
Cristina Sola
as Woman With Bishop
Laura Vidal Traver
as Hangover Girl
Reginald Wilson
as Customer Fishmarket
Ariadna Cabrol
as Beggar Woman No. 1
Maia Jenkinson
as Beggar Woman No. 2
Birgit Minichmayr
as Grenouille's Mother
David Calder
as Bishop of Grasse
Simon Chandler
as Mayor of Grasse
Francesc Albiol
as Court Official
Gonzalo Cunill
as Guard No. 1 Dungeon
Reg Wilson
as Fishmarket Customer
Catherine Boisgontier
as Fishmarket Woman
Núria Casas
as Fishmarket Woman No. 2
Dora Romano
as Baldini's Wife
Jaume Montané
as Pelissier
Carolina Vera
as Neapolitan Girl
Duna Jove
as Young Woman
Jerome Willis
as Councillor No. 1
Fermí Reixach
as Councillor No. 2
Montserrat Maso
as Housekeeper
Derek Smee
as Councillor No. 3
Albert Pérez
as Councillor No. 4
Gordon Harris
as Marquis de Montesquieu
Roger Salvany
as Guard No. 2 Dungeon
Richard Felix
as Chief Magistrate
Carlos Gramaje
as Police Lieutenant
Andres Herrera
as Door Guard
John Hurt
as Narrator
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Critic Reviews for Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

All Critics (127) | Top Critics (42)

  • Tykwer loses his cinematic grip when he tries to blend murder and piety. In his hands, the two don't emulsify.

    Jan 11, 2007 | Rating: 2/4
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is another nauseous example of style over content: a toxic tale of serial homicide set in 18th-century France that creeps you out faster than it makes you think.

    Jan 10, 2007

    Rex Reed

    Top Critic
  • Hated this movie. Hated it.

    Jan 8, 2007
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer never tries to make Jean-Baptiste sympathetic but he's not rendered monstrous, either: He just is a victim of a passion larger and more powerful than any one man can handle.

    Jan 5, 2007 | Rating: 3/4
  • [The filmmakers] render a portrait of Paris that both delights and overwhelms the senses. This is a movie where eyes turn into noses, which may run at the many ghastly sights presented.

    Jan 5, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Tykwer, best known for the ultramodern chase movie Run Lola Run, would seem an unusual choice for a period film, but he infuses the sometimes stately story with vigor; though well past two and a half hours, it never feels long.

    Jan 5, 2007 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

  • Apr 04, 2013
    Great costumes and good acting. But the story's a bit...odd. Not a satisfying conclusion at all.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Feb 10, 2013
    For some reasons unclear to me, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" has never really piqued my interest before. Despite the fact that the visually innovative Tom Tykwer is at the directorial helm, my inclination to watch this film is quite lukewarm at best mainly because, well, I just don't know why. But seeing the film in all its glorious bizarreness and vivid peculiarity after all of those apathetic years, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" has turned out to be quite an exhilarating cinematic surprise. Later, I then found out that the novel on which the film was adapted from is a personal favorite of Kurt Cobain (because he was able to identify with Jean-Baptiste Grenouille's outsider mentality), which naturally leaves me even more intrigued to read it. After all, nothing beats a dose of literary alienation every now and then. Starring Ben Whishaw as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man born in a most conducive environment of rotten fishes and market filth who has since mastered an almost superhuman attention to scent, the film starts out in a fashion reminiscent of Danny DeVito's underrated film adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda." Although on the opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of tone, atmosphere and character development, both films have captured the elusive beauty of introductory storytelling with a sort of effortless vibe, enhanced, of course, by two great narrative voices: the former being Danny DeVito's very own, and the latter being John Hurt's monastic yet commanding tenor. But before I get carried away by my comparison of a grotesquely obsessive tale to a heart-warming children's story, I'll just stop right there. At the time (2006) considered as the most expensive German film ever made, that fact is very evident in how the film was visually conveyed. By maintaining the architectural grace of 18th century Paris yet at the same time ornamenting it with the mud, dirt and decay caused by sheer overpopulation, Tom Tykwer, known for his audacious visuals (Remember "Run Lola Run?"), has convincingly turned Paris into the sort of city Charles Dickens' characters could have easily lived their respective plights on. But for Grenouille the aspiring master perfumer and scent savant, played with starry-eyed perfection by Ben Whishaw, Paris, abundantly stinky and all, is nothing but olfactory practice. Despite his less than trivial birth, Grenouille knows that he is bound for something more transcendentally important, so with his grandiose ambitions intact, he then sets his eyes, err, nose, for something infinitely bigger than just merely creating a pedestrian perfume: and that is to create a scent made entirely out of natural, human fragrance. And how can he do that, you may ask? Well, watching this great film on your own to find out definitely won't hurt. With great veteran talents (Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman) leading the way, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" turns out to be more than just a visual feast. Although Hoffman and Rickman's performances may slightly be criticized mainly because of the fact that they haven't tried hard enough to completely disappear into their roles (Hoffman quite labors on the Italian accent; Alan Rickman is just too Judge Turpin), the story's twisted yet serene soul more than makes up for the convincing yet fleeting performances, especially when Grenouille, the emotionally lost perfumer himself, slowly tunes up the band for the shocking final crescendo that will surely part the viewers like the Red Sea. Suffice it to say, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" has never quite reached the relative popularity of the Patrick Süskind novel, but still, for someone who believes that film adaptations should be judged separately from their source materials, I think that this one should have received an infinitely more favorable reception. But for the sake of discourse, aren't you curious of what Kubrick may have done with this one? Or what Polanski may have added to it? Or what Scorsese may have changed? But then again, despite of those mammoth cinematic names that were, at one point or another, either attached or has shown interest to direct this film (add Ridley Scott and Milos Forman there), I still believe that this Tykwer version is enough. Like Grenouille's 'human' perfume itself, "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" is a hypnotic creation that exudes a kind of flawed beauty so haunting and unique that you have no other choice but be willingly spellbound by it.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer
  • Feb 14, 2012
    A great film by Tom Tykwer. Better than the book in my opinion. An appropriate depiction of a very untypical murderer in a bizarre quest.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 2011
    I think I am lost as to what the critics didn't like about this. It was stunningly shot, completely visceral. Smell, like taste, is something that is difficult to translate into film and the only way to do get as real as possible and let the audience create it for themselves. The extravagant colors and shots were more than enough to start you thinking about all of the scents in the world. Ben Whishaw was entrancing to watch as he became a serial killer and of course Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman deliver performances their names promise. The story is edged with a bit of strange. But I think that's what made it slightly fantastical. I haven't read the book, but I am very interested in it now.
    Jennifer D Super Reviewer

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