Movie Summary: "Perfume"

by Allison Horky

"Perfume" tells the story of a crazed perfume maker on a murderous path.

Jeffrey Hamilton/Photodisc/Getty Images

"Perfume," a 2006 movie directed by Tom Tykwer, stars Ben Whishaw as perfume maker Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, Alan Rickman as father Antoine Richis, Rachel Hurd-Wood as Laura, Dustin Hoffman as Baldini Giuseppe and Karoline Herfurth as the Plum Girl first killed by Grenouille. The film tells the tale of a boy with a precise olfactory talent that leads him into a destructive string of tracking and killing for the sake of a perfume. The story is told in flashbacks at Grenouille's sentencing and execution.


"Perfume" stars Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Whishaw), a boy who has always had an impeccable sense of smell. He was an orphan-at-birth left in a fish market by his parents. He grows up awkwardly detached from the world. Baldini Giuseppe (Hoffman) is the first owner of a perfume shop that Grenouille visits in Paris. Grenouille then visits Grasse to learn a different method from Madame Arnulfi (Corinna Harfouch) and Dominique Druot (Paul Berrondo). It is in Grasse that he becomes obsessed with the scent of Laura (Hurd-Wood). Antoine Richis (Rickman), Laura's father, tries to save Laura throughout the film.

Learning to Make Perfume

After accidentally suffocating a girl selling plums (Herfurth), Grenouille becomes obsessed with the process of preserving a woman's scent forever, as he found out it fades over time. Grenouille sets out to Paris to learn from Giuseppe. Giuseppe teaches Grenouille that a perfect scent actually consists of 12 different components, sometimes 13, and a perfect scent can make people believe they are in paradise. After seeing that Giuseppe's method does not convert all scents into perfumes, he goes to Grasse. In Grasse, he smells Laura and seeks a job with Madame Arnulfi and Druot, learning cold enfleurage as a way to preserve a woman's entire scent.

Serial Killings

After he has perfected his scent-preservation technique, he starts on a killing spree of young, beautiful women in the small town of Grasse. After extracting their scent from their skin and hair, he dumps their bodies in the street, creating fear in the entire town. Now that Grenouille has his 12 scents, he seeks out Laura to complete the perfume with a 13th component. Even though Richis (Rickman) takes his daughter out of town, Grenouille tracks her to where she is staying. Richis finds her dead in the morning and sends soldiers to capture Grenouille. By the time the soldiers catch him, he has already added his final scent to his perfect perfume.

Perfect Perfume

Grenouille is now at his execution, and the film is in real time, no more flashbacks. Just as he is about to be executed, he puts one drop of the perfume on his neck. The entire crowd and executioner are speechless at the beauty of the perfume, declaring Grenouille innocent. Richis is still convinced of Grenouille's guilt and attempts to kill him, but the perfume renders him unable. Instead, he declares Grenouille as a "son" and claims it must have been Druot that did the killings. After all, the hair and clothes of the women were in his backyard. Grenouille now has enough perfume to make the entire world love him, but he realizes it is not real and walks to the fish market where he was left as a child. He dumps the entire bottle of perfume on his head and the crowd devours him, thinking him an angel. The film ends showing his clothes and an empty bottle of perfume.

Photo Credits

  • Jeffrey Hamilton/Photodisc/Getty Images