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So often, the film based on or inspired by a novel has disappointed. From what can be read these days, "Perfume" will be the culmination point of all possible disappointments. Of all books, it is the least visual, its most crucial aspects taking place exclusively in the mind of Grenouille (while he remains almost motionless for 7 years, how about that for a movie?). The novel is something like a Holy Grail for us Germans, showing a narrative and linguistic power that we had not expected from German authors – this opulence of sensuality and the outrageousness of the protagonist’s amorality are just too powerful to resist when you grew up with the likes of Siegfried Lenz, Hermann Hesse and Martin Walser…  (I think the success stems more from this surprise, less from the actual qualities of the book). I am a bit afraid that this monolithic achievement of German post-war literature might get damaged by the film. Films, as much as I love them, may be able to interpret specific motives from literature and create a new piece of art on top of them (see Kubrick, or Hitchcock). They are also (sometimes) able to add an artistic perspective to an already well-known story. By that I mean the cases where the story is sufficiently well-known (so well-known, as a matter of fact, that you can play with the storyline again), but does not necessarily have a standing as a major literary achievement in its own right. And thinking about the example for this category, I cannot but think of the "10 Commandments" and all those flics based on the same book… Where things can go really bad is when the book has all features of a masterpiece: plot, characters, drama, thrill, language. This now may be a matter of taste, but in my opinion, the only possible way of making a good film out of such a book is the "Kubrick way" (maybe that was why according to rumors Patrick Sueskind had him in mind as a director? So that the book remained unharmed? We don’t know). Any effort to merely add the pictures to the letters will end in desaster. No, not desaster, but let’s be more personal: In boredeom. I have never felt as bored in a major movie than in the first part of "Harry Potter", where nothing of substance was added to what already existed in the book. The only interesting thing was the ommissions. The pictures? No, I did have pictures before, trust me on this, anybody has plenty of pictures when reading a good book. (No, I do not really want to claim Mr Potter’s biography was on the same quality level as Mr Grenouille’s, but they have their similarities in their monumental impact on the literary scenes – and they are both entertaining, for some).

What we can expect from the "Perfume" is a very naturalistic film, with the stench of Paris and of Grasse, and the sweet odour of virgins about to get killed being put into colours. No doubt it will look great. Expecting more than that would be daring. Beyond that, what I hope is that not too many movie tie-ins and picture books hit the shelfes and spoil the uniqueness of what Sueskind has achieved for German literature.

A review after the press screenings can be found here:

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