The central plot-device of Patrick Suskind’s novel, and therefore Tom Twyker’s film Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer is the development of a perfume which is so intoxicating it will enslave mankind. There are a number of problems with this, namely that said perfume appears to be made out of the distilled essence of thirteen virginal girls, at least half of which appear to come from the lower classes: which one would imagine in eighteenth century France would stink up a storm. Not so much enslaving mankind as whiffing a bit of fish-guts and minestrone. Nevertheless if we accept the premise of the film there is still another more pressing problem in the visual representation of this film.
Look at these young women. To the left we have Karoline Herfurth, the source of our murderous perfumers initial obsession. A fruit-seller in Paris, she seems to have a remarkable hair colour for someone of her era. Indeed lets be fair, if Clairol’s Seria is not involved then there is some serious loss in hair dye technology between the 1760’s and now. Of course this hair colour could be natural. It could be, but clearly isn’t, as no-one has natural hair THAT red*. Except Rachel Hurd-Wood (right) , who appears to have exactly the same, somewhat unnatural hair tone. Its almost as if they bought too much Feria Blood Red and had to use it up. They also dip another murder victim (the prostitute, what did you expect) in the brew too. All of which slightly undermines the lack of technology apparently in the perfume making process. though not quite as much as having Dustin Hoffman hamming it up in the perfume trade.
Casting is one of the films oddities. What the casting directors saw in Pingu from Nathan Barley as the lead character it is unclear? He is somewhat odd looking, having the air and gravitas of a slightly more contained Lee Evans. Still it is a role which requires little in the way of speech, that being handled by John hurt doing the narration. And as Lars Von-Trier, and anyone who has seen Watership Down will testify, a John Hurt narration can save any movie. And any film with a mass orgy which include bishops and fishwives can never be a wholly bad thing. The crowd below are just about to rip their clothes off and get at it. Tastefully of course. Driven wild by the smell of teenage girls body odour. Hmm.
*Indeed my friend from the politically ginger camp are quite adamant that Hollywood always gets red hair wrong, and happily trump up Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson and a blonde who has been dumped in the dye.