Based on Patrick Süskınd’s novel The Scent: The Story of a Killer was released in 2006. The movie was directed by Tom Tykwer and stars Ben Whishaw in the lead role. The film won the German Film Award for Best Film in 2007 and the German Film Award for Best Fiction in the same year.
Our movie begins with the birth of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in the fish market, the stinkiest place in Paris in the XVIIIth century France. Abandoned by his mother at birth, Grenouille is found by people in the market sweeping up fish carcasses. While his mother is executed for leaving her child to die, Grenouille is given to an orphanage in the area. The life of this child, who is sensitive to smells from the moment he is born and who manages to live in bad conditions, is conveyed to the audience throughout the movie. Grenouille, who is quite different from other children, is only interested in smells.
For Grenouille, who recognizes people, animals, cities and things by their smells, the only meaning of life is to learn how to smell them. So when he grows up and leaves the orphanage, he takes a job with a famous scent master. From him he learns the names of scents and how to keep them. The master and Grenouille are aware of this: Grenouille has the best nose in the world. His master becomes very rich from Grenoulli, who can distinguish scents without using any formulas and mix essences to make wonderful perfumes. However, after an accident, he is unable to enjoy this wealth. Upon the death of his master, Grenoullie sets out again to make the most beautiful fragrance in the world. He goes to a place where there is no smell and no people and closes himself here for years. He could never get used to being with people and could never communicate with them. He manages to survive in this cave for years. He reaches inner peace. In the book, this process is expressed as follows:
Until today he had always thought that it was the world in general that he had to shrink away from. But it wasn’t the world, it was people. It seemed that the world, a world empty of people, could very well be lived in.
During the days he spends in the cave, Grenoullie realizes something he never realized: he has no smell of his own.
“For someone who knows everyone and everything by smell, the absence of his own scent makes him feel that he is nothing in the eyes of others. As if he never existed.”
So when Grenoullie comes out of his cave, he starts to plan for himself. He will have the most beautiful smell in the world and this is how he will appear in front of people. Grenoullie, who pursues every beautiful scent, does not discriminate between plants, objects or people to reach these scents. He tries to distill everything. When he realizes that humans cannot be distilled, he kills them and turns their scents into oils. However, the mysterious deaths of women in the cities start to frighten everyone. The discovery of the bodies of beautiful women killed in the same way causes fear in the city. Girls are unable to go out on the streets. And the city’s dignitaries set out to find the killer.
While all the scents are ready for Grenoullie, only one person’s scent is missing, Laura’s. Although this young girl, who attracts attention with her beauty, is protected by her father, Grenoullie still achieves his goal. Thus, the scents are complete. Now these delicately collected scents are ready in a single bottle and in Grenoullie’s hands.
But when the scent is finished, it is revealed that the murders were committed by Grenoullie. Grenoullie is captured and asked to be executed. While Grenoullie is about to be executed in front of all the people, he takes the scent out of his pocket and starts to apply it to himself and his surroundings. All the people are mesmerized by this unique scent. All the people believe that Grenoullie is incapable of murder and begin to see him as an angel. Then everyone undresses and starts making love to each other. This part of the movie is almost hypnotic. No one realizes what they are doing. Meanwhile, Grenoullie moves away from there and sets off on a new path: Paris.
Grenoullie, who has enough perfume with him to influence the whole world, who can influence even the king and the pope to declare himself the Messiah, who can do all this and more if he wants, returns to the place where his story began, where he was born. He pours all the perfume he has on his head. People come at him hypnotized and tear Grenoullie to pieces.
In fact, the movie contains many symbols. Perfume means love for Grenoullie. That’s why when he wears the perfume, everyone starts to make love under its influence. That’s why people start to see and love her when she is wearing the perfume. When he is not wearing the perfume, Grenoullie is almost a nobody.
But Grenoullie has also realized that there are things perfume cannot do: It cannot turn him into someone who loves and is loved like everyone else. He therefore makes an attempt on his life with his own creation. He experiences his own death in the place where he was born. He does not accept the perfume he made with his own hands, that is, love. And he goes towards annihilation, towards never having been.