Perfume: The Story of a Murderer: The Scent of Film

Sense of smell is one of the most important senses of human. But smell is invisible, inaudible and abstract. It’s not easy to present smells in films, not mention let the spectators feel it. But the film by Tom Tykwer, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer explained how to make a film smellable. But what magics made it happen?


The first magic is its images. It includes various objects. The filthy muddy streets, the fishes being slashed, piles of animal’s viscera, blood stains, leather and grease. All of these stimulate the spectators visually and directly, and wake up people’s memories about those smells. Most importantly, it used a great amount of close-up shots and extending moving shots, which shows the extendibility and track of scents.

The second magic is the sounds and music. All the diegetic sounds that is used in the film together created the inflammatory atmosphere of the dirty fish markets, crowded and noisy markets, dark streets and the fields with floral scents. The sounds and music give empathy to the spectators.

The third magic is the voice-over. In this film, the importance of voice-over is rather important than that in other films. Not only does it help the narrative, but also help to create the mysterious atmospheres. It guides the spectators to associate to the smell from the images and sounds.

The girl selling plums is the most successful human figure with smell in this film. At first, the protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille smells the girl in distance, the smell is faint, so most of the shots of the girl are full shot. But when Jean-Baptiste close his eyes and smell carefully, a great number of close-ups are used. What’s more, one significant element is the plums. The close-up shot of the girl cutting the plum into two halves makes the plum looks flesh and sweet. That’s what the spectators feel about the girl, since the plums are a symbol of the girl. Together with the music, making the girl a smellable figure in the film.

Written By: Liang Cao





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