“In the classical arts of scent, the man was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In short he was a monster without talent.”
Perfume offers deceit, darkness and heartbreak. It presents a modernisation of a novel by Patrick Suskind written in 1985. In which perfumer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille sense of smell drives him to murder beautiful young virgins in order to extract their scent. Suskind’s book questions whether scents can create passion, lust, heartbreak. Scents are hunted down by Grenouille keen to master the art of perfumery and most of all to be accepted and loved.
Perfume was released by Netflix at the end of last year as part of Netflix’s drive to diversify its film and tv collection for viewers. It has one season of six darkly webbed episodes. The German series was directed by Philipp Kadelbach and presents the non- German speaker with a great introduction into foreign series and film.
The first five minutes start with us being in the place of the detective, we see the mutilated body of redheaded singer. Her sweat glands have been cut off along with her feminity. Her hair shaven like a criminal. But what is she guilty of? Why kill in this way?
To answer all these questions the series takes us back in time. The singers six boarding school friends grew up with a need, a want to be just like Grenouille after reading Suskind’s novel to each other. Scents they like are bottled and created into perfumes mostly in the hope of impressing school girl Elena. The need to impress and master the arts of scent leads them down a rather dark path- bottling scents of things is not enough. They need to capture life. And the only way to this is in death.
The serial-killers rather unconventional motive is eventually broken apart bit by bit by a powerful, witty female detective played by Friederike Becht (The reader). Who dresses up the role giving Nadja an edge above her male counterparts and also in presenting her instability and flawed nature. As a character she is rather blind to her desires and interests continuing an affair with the chief inspector despite knowing he doesn’t truly love her. Having anosmia further defects her as she cannot use a sense of smell in the way the killer can. We remain as blind as she does till the very last minute of the series.
With every minute, we see the clarity of the lines between criminal and detective blurring, discovery of a motive means nothing if that motive is something we can sympathise with. You’ll be absorbed by the twisted motivation and flawed nature of the characters in perfume. Hints of the story will linger with you even after you finish watching it.