“He’s a murderer and an artist, he’s like a child and also like an old man, and he’s like an animal, but there’s something ethereal about him,” says Ben Whishaw in describing Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the character he portrays in Tom Tykwer‘s Perfume (Paramount, 12.27), in a chat with N.Y. Times writer Coelli Carr. “Because he hardly ever says anything, you start to read his behavior and look at those tiny things — posture, gait or the expression in the eyes — that are usually secondary to words.”
It is one thing to find fascination with Grenouille in the original Patrick Susskind novel, drawn in (as I was) by the well-sculpted prose and the fascinating evocations of aromatic transporation. It is another thing entirely to want to pay to see a movie about same and swim around in the head of a nearly non-verbal murdering creep for two hours. In talking with people who had seen the film, Whishaw found that “some had enormous sympathy for Grenouille, while others were repelled. ‘I like the fact that the film allows for those two very different responses,’ he said.”