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"Perfume" - sweet scent of death

Still Photo from the ZDF series "Perfume": Investigators Brettschneider (Marc Hosemann, l.) And Köhler (Juergen Maurer, 2nd from right) and prosecutor Grünberg (Wotan Wilke Möhring, 3rd from right) examine with profiler Nadja Simon (Friederike Becht, 2nd from left) the crime scene and the victim.
© ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz

Is there any such thing as the ultimate fragrance? One whose aroma is so irresistible that it renders people powerless? Inspired by Patrick Süskind’s international bestseller “Perfume. The Story of a Murderer”, the six-part thriller series “Perfume” is about a monstrous killer and explores the question of whether humans are in fact capable of true love. Or will we inevitably be manipulated by our own sense of smell?

By Angela Zierow

Naturally this thriller also begins with a corpse, in this case, one that has even been mutilated in a particularly unappetizing fashion. The beautiful Katherina, known as K, is found murdered in a swimming pool, her head shaved and her pubic and armpit hair expertly removed from her body. Why did this charismatic singer, who cast everyone under her spell, have to die? Roman (Ken Duken), her casual lover, even claimed that he was “addicted to her”. Soon, the profiler Nadja Simon (Friederike Becht), Chief Detective Inspector Matthias Köhler (Jürgen Maurer), and Federal Prosecutor Grünberg (Wotan Wilke Möhring) are investigating not only this murder. Is the key to solving the crime to be found in the past activities of a clique of teenagers who went a step too far in their secret experiments and quest for the perfect fragrance?

  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Perfume - Ambra": Elena Seliger (Natalia Belitski) looks through the patio door into the garden, where the little neighbor boy stands, who returns her gaze and holds something orange in her hand. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    Elena Seliger (Natalia Belitski) sees the neighbor boy standing in the garden. A harbinger of the horror to follow
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Parfum - Ambra": Brettschneider (Marc Hosemann), Grünberg (Wotan Wilke Möhring) and Köhler (Juergen Maurer) are standing on the terrace of a bungalow. There, by a pool, lies a naked female corpse with a shaved head. In front of her kneels Nadja Simon (Friederike Becht) and looks closely at the mutilated body © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    Investigators Brettschneider (Marc Hosemann, l.) And Köhler (Juergen Maurer, 2nd from right) and prosecutor Grünberg (Wotan Wilke Möhring, 3rd from right) investigate the crime scene and the victim with profiler Nadja Simon (Friederike Becht, 2nd from left) ,
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Parfum - Herzakkord": Outside scene - Moritz (Leon Blaschke) looks at Elena (Valerie Stoll), who holds the book "The Perfume - The Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Süskind in his hands. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    The Beginning of a Fascination: Elena (Valerie Stoll) reads Moritz (Leon Blaschke) from "Perfume - The Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Süskind.
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Perfume - Bondage": Bottom view of Thomas Butsche (Trystan Pütter). He stands in a room, his outstretched arm pointing his weapon diagonally down towards the camera. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    The rumors spread about Thomas Butsche (Trystan Pütter) drive him to extremes.
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Perfume - Ambra": Nadja Simon (Friederike Becht) stand behind a window, she looks outside. She takes a photo with her smartphone, wearing blue latex gloves. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    Profiler Nadja Simon (Friederike Becht) takes pictures of the crime scene and some of them are of a private nature.
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Perfume - Ambra": Moritz de Vries (August Diehl) is standing in his laboratory with equipment for extraction on the table in front of him. Behind him stands a shelf, with different glasses of unknown content. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    The profession of perfumer seems to Moritz de Vries (August Diehl) to be much more than just that, it is a passion.
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Perfume - Synthesis": Daniel "Toothless" Sluiter (Christian Friedel) and Elena Seliger (Natalia Belitski) dance together on a dark dance floor, they look each other in the eyes. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    Daniel "Toothless" Sluiter (Christian Friedel) and Elena Seliger (Natalia Belitski) slow dancing, even though K.'s funeral is not long ago.
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Perfume - Ambra": Main Commissioner Matthias Köhler (Jürgen Maurer) is sitting on a couch. Next to him, as well as in front of him, there are two dogs sitting. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    Chief Inspector Matthias Köhler (Jürgen Maurer) conducts a survey, he is fishing for clues about the perpetrator.
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" -"Perfume - Bondage": View from above into the interrogation room of the police. Elena Seliger (Natalia Belitski) sits at a table. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    Elena Seliger (Natalia Belitski) faces the investigation and has to undergo further interrogation.
  • Still frame from the ZDF Series "Perfume" - "Perfume - The Third Substance": Close-up of Moritz de Vries (August Diehl) sitting in a white protective suit on a chair and staring blankly at the camera. © ZDF/Jakub Bejnarowicz
    Perfumer is more than just a profession for Moritz de Vries (August Diehl).
An enigmatic, dark, and bloody six-part mini-series that features considerable naked flesh, “Perfume” – directed by Emmy Award Winner Philipp Kadelbach (“Generation War”), with a screenplay by Eva Kranenburg (“Die denkwürdigen Erlebnisse meines Vaters”), and produced by Oliver Berben of Constantin Film – tells the story of a puzzling hunt for a killer. Which should come as no surprise given that the script is based on the award-winning novel “Perfume. The Story of a Murderer” (1985) by Patrick Süskind, who wrote the screenplays of such landmark German TV series as “Monaco Franze - Der ewige Stenz” and “Kir Royal”. Set in eighteenth-century Paris, the novel describes the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a misfit who does not give off any scent of his own but does have a phenomenal sense of smell. Driven by his vision of distilling the ultimate aphrodisiac from the aromas of young women, this olfactory genius becomes a monster.

an aesthetically powerful horror trip

Having been translated into 50 languages and sold over 20 million copies worldwide, “Perfume” is one of the most successful German-language books of the twentieth century. In 2006, the filmmaker Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) made a lavish cinema adaptation of the bestseller, starring the then unknown British actor Ben Whishaw (who played Q in “Skyfall”).
The series also features opulent imagery and explores whether people can be manipulated by smells. In flashbacks, the six episodes unfold the drama surrounding five former boarding school students (Ken Duken, Trystan Pütter, August Diehl, Christian Friedel, Natalia Belitski), who for the past twenty years have been carrying a terrible secret around with them. The reason is Süskind’s best-selling novel. The friends had been excessively fascinated by the book, and found themselves abandoning all of their scruples in their scientific curiosity. The murder of the beautiful Katharina brings the clique back together, reawakening memories of sexual experiments, obsession, and jealousy, an unsurprisingly making their meeting at the open coffin a frosty affair. Meanwhile, the profiler Nadja Simon bumbles around the middle of nowhere in the Lower Rhine region in search of answers and a way out of her own joyless love life, wandering through forgotten landscapes that lack any kind of loveliness and surrounded by various unlikeable characters who all seem to have a screw loose.
Perfume | Official Trailer | Netflix
The result is an aesthetically powerful horror trip, one depicted in a palette of dirty greens and sulfurous yellows, that knows just how to keep thriller fans spellbound. And this despite the fact that the story descends at times into a sweaty male teenage fantasy (NC-17) with a dubious image of women in which the consistently superb cast has to grope its way from one clumsy dialog to the next.  
The elegant blend of noir crime and dark erotic thriller proved a huge hit with series fans in Germany and abroad, though reviews in the media sounded less enthusiastic: “Fell flat on its nose” was the caustic verdict of the FAZ, while die Zeit attested that it had “no heartfelt note”. Spiegel Online even found the result so dreadful that it emblazoned its news website with the headline “Complete flop from the Lower Rhine”. So will the makers risk a second season nonetheless? Though no official confirmation has yet been forthcoming, the cliffhanger in the first season finale certainly offers some hope.

StreaM "Perfume"


Germany 2018, Directed by Philipp Kadelbach Starring Friederike Becht, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Jürgen Maurer, Ken Duken, Trystan Pütter, August Diehl, Christian Friedel, Natalia Belitski  FSK 16 J
Six episodes of approx. 55 minutes each.