Warning: Spoilers. Also: Orgies.
Patrick Süskind once wrote a novel called Das Parfum, or Perfume; The Story of a Murderer. My brother alerted me to this novel when I was 15, he having been made aware of it through the Nirvana song Scentless Apprentice (about main character Jean-Baptiste Grenouille). This is the only book I didn't finish all in one go. I've never read a book that I spent more than a week reading. I can read the entire Harry Potter series in under a week. This book, however, was all kinds of tedious! Perhaps some flow was lost in translating it from Süskind's original German. Or perhaps Süskind himself is just not a very flowery writer. Either way, while it only took me a total of about 3 days reading time, I had a 2 or 3 month break in between as, frankly, it just got too boring. Once I finished it, however, I was very pleased. While it isn't the most fun book to read, the story itself is gripping and original. When I heard they were turning the novel into a film I was beyond excited, especially when I saw the casting.
The classically beautiful Rachel Hurd-Wood as Laura Richis, the essential "note" of the Perfume Grenouille creates.
Dustin Hoffman as Giuseppe Baldini, the out-of-fashion perfumer who employs Grenouille, and sends the latter to Grasse to learn how to capture scent.
Alan Rickman plays Antoine Richis, Laure's father who does all he can to protect his beautiful daughter from becoming a victim of Grasse's serial killer.
Along with several other foreign actors whom I've never seen before or since, this cast was absolutely fabulous. The (seemingly obvious) critical piece of casting was that of the lead Grenouille, a murderer with a complete lack of his own odor and an overwhelming ability to identify fragrance. I couldn't possibly have been more pleased with the decision, nor been made more confident in the films success because of the decision. I had never seen nor heard of this actor, and was instantly excited by the prospect of seeing him in action. I was not disappointed. I give thee: Ben Whishaw.
He possesses a subtlety I've witnessed ONLY in Johnny Depp (a la Edward Scissorhands), an innocence and purity in his presence I've only seen in Gaspard Ulliel, and an intensity of method acting comparable to Christian Bale.
More than anyone else in this movie, he brought this story to life. He plays a beautifully autistic character, clearly both suffering and thriving from a severe case of Asperger's. I cannot emphasize enough how impossible it is not to fall in love with this character.
It takes a talented actor** to not only hold his own, but completely steal an entire film away from the likes of Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman. It also takes a ballsy director to use a virtual unknown in a film adaptation of an already virtually unknown story.
This movie is a must-see. It is a profound statement on individuality, on identity, and on love. There is nudity, there is murder, and there is a massive, MASSIVE orgy**.
** I watched Perfume for the second time last night. I read the book, I discussed the book - thoroughly - with those who had read it, and I'd watched the movie - hungrily!. I can HONESTLY say that the film is so pretty, and Ben Whishaw is so absorbing, that I completely forgot about the orgy sequence. For those of you not interested in watching the movie OR reading the book, the orgy is the result of them smelling the perfume Grenouille creates after capturing the scents of the girls he's murdered.