The concept driving Nils Willbrandt's The Perfumier is so intriguing that it's hugely disappointing that the movie itself fails to ignite a sense of curiosity. The story follows a detective named Sunny who cannot smell anything. On the other end of the spectrum is a perfume maker who wants to create a love perfume. He is Dorian, and to attain his objective, he murders women. Dorian has completed work on his new perfume, though he soon realizes it's a failure. Its scent doesn't make one fall in love but arouses carnal desires. Sex is not equal to love. Nevertheless, after going through Dorian's lab, Sunny decides to keep the sex perfume with her. Why? So that she could prevent Juro from leaving her. Juro is her colleague-cum-lover, though he also has a wife and children. When Sunny puts on the scent, its smell sexually attracts Juro to her. Thus, this affair doesn't stop.
Sunny makes questionable, covetous choices. Sunny uses perfume when Juro's family visits him. She literally snatches him away from his wife. Sunny seeks Dorian not to arrest him but to use him to regain her ability to smell. This character is so lonely she holds on to a delusion. She is selfish enough to trap a man and destroy his marriage if it means she could have a partner. Hell, she considers asking for help from a murderer even though she suspects he might betray her!
Dorian is a victim of childhood trauma. He used to smell so bad that even his mother couldn't bear him. You can only imagine how difficult his early days might have been. If you think about it, Sunny and Dorian are similar in some respects. Both are sad and want someone to love them (hence, Dorian's desire to make a love perfume). They both have companions, but the bond they share with them is superficial at best. Sunny's relationship with Juro is based on sex, while Dorian considers Rex, his partner in crime, as a muse or an assistant.
The characters in The Perfumier are introverted. As a result, the movie supplies a voice-over to communicate their thoughts to us. You can ruminate on the themes and ideas laid down by The Perfumier (can a feeling like love be transmuted into a scent? Can you make a love perfume even if you have not experienced love?). But unfortunately, the movie is devoid of any pleasure. It's as cold as a serial killer. Willbrandt has made a movie so withdrawn and dejected it fails to communicate feelings to us. The sight of dead bodies does not invoke macabre terror. There is no melancholia in the scene where Sunny lets go of Dorian. We are always outside the film and observe it from a distance.
The Perfumier establishes a spiritual connection between Sunny and Dorian. He not only senses that she is alive but also the fact that she has burned his lab. He is also able to find a necklace buried by her in seclusion. This inexplicable bond is not properly fleshed out and so feels half-baked. In fact, the whole movie feels half-baked (the subplot involving a young boy sticks out like a sore thumb). The filmmakers have profound ideas, but they lack a convincing script.
Final Score – [5/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
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