When you first hear or read the word perfume, all that comes to mind is words such as beauty, cleanliness, sharpness, attractiveness, maybe even seduction. Nothing comes in mind about filth, murder, crime, or abduction.
Warning: Lots of spoilers ahead!
We are first introduced to the story by the foul smell of fish guts and insides, dumped on the ground of the fish market, were our protagonist sees light (being given birth to and left on the pile). So this does not give a very pleasant atmosphere to begin with.
Since I first laid eyes on Jean Baptiste Grenouille, the protagonist of the bestseller and breathtaking masterpiece, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, (yes, I am guilty of watching the movie first), I could see the psychopathy features written all over him. As a heavenly coincidence, I was lucky to watch a YouTube video days prior to reading the book, the video was talking about the differences between a sociopath and a psychopath. The traits, which a psychopath’s personality has, struck me as very similar to Jean Baptiste’s.
A psychopath as defined by Sophie P, the article writer from which the video is made, is a person who “does not have a conscience.” He knows whats right, but he chooses to ignore it. This is embodied in Grenouille’s mentality, in that he is aware that abduction and murder of virgin girls, for the sake of the Ultimate perfume, from which he will “rule the hearts of men,” is just not right. This is why he keeps everything hidden for years, and not because, God forbids, he feels sorry or something, but because he fears what people would say of him if they find out, or try to stop him. To tell the truth, when I watched the movie, I could not shake of the feeling that he was pathetic. I felt empathy for him, considering his birth conditions, his early childhood in the orphanage and streets, and how he was so pathetically driven by his unique sense of smell. However, once I read the book and had acsses to his deepest thoughts, I was more convinced than ever, that he was a psychopath. He is so passive, so inconsiderate, so greedy, so self-centered, that he goes on with the killings, not out of love, revenge, prejudice, hatred or other crime drives, but to kill them to capture their scents, that drove him completely out of his mind.
Some might argue that Grenouille’s extra-ordinary sense of smell was given to him by God, and that he in other words is doomed by it, by his fate to be a killer. I believe that he could have used it in a productive way, where he could have became the best perfumer in Europe if he wanted, but he choose the path of murder.
Jean Baptiste Grenouille is cursed, from the first moment he sets foot in life. He is cursed by this almost in-humane, extraordinary sense of smell, and by the time he gets older, his curse spreads to infest his surroundings. Wherever he goes, there is chaos, disappearance and murder. When he gets to the house of the perfumer in Paris, we cannot help but to hope for a little bit of sunshine in Grenouille’s life. We wait breathlessly for Giuseppi Baldini to notice his talent and take him in, since this might be the start of a decent life for Grenouille, but God how wrong we were. For once Grenouille sets foot out of Baldini’s house, the house collapses down to river! Then his curse is spread even more in the several villages and towns he gets to, once he discovers the best way to preserve perfumes, after many losing attempts, where he experimented on in-humane objects. Girls, and particularly virgins, start disappearing one after the other. His killing spree escalates in his quest to fill the 13 bottles of perfume, with the preserved scents of the most beautiful girls in town, where he takes braids from their hairs, and soaks their bodies in fat to obtain the odor, that when mixed together will make his unprecedented perfume, from which a drop is enough to make him on top of the world, or so he thought.
The ending of Grenouille in the book was epic! Just before his “mesmerizing” finale, and for the shortest moment, we see Grenouille victorious, we witness how people cling up to him, almost worshiping him, before he vanishes into thin air. The ending of the book in my opinion is way better than the movie, though the movie’s was great, but it was more cinematic. In addition, and although the movie was less brutal, it is after all the “Story” of a murderer.