Reenacting the great story of Patrick Süskind “Perfume – The story of a murderer” (Das Parfüm – Geschichte eines Mörders) as a series of self portraits with my real life partner and me.
The series is inspired by the film, as well as other stories/films and my imagination of how the story should look like.
This posts features the results from summer 2019 – March 2020. More to come in 2020.
More scenes to come in 2020!
click for more images!
A personal project: my beauty icon comes to life.
The original film (2006) is the reason why my visual creativity is what it is. I remember til this day how I saw this film the first time in cinema. (I was 15 then.) Never had I seen something more pure, romantic, dark and eerie than this film… The fragil beauty of the women, the horrible cruelty, the detailed, dreamlike depiction of another era crept into my blood. I think, til today, that this film did a GENIUS job on translating ‘scent’ to something visual. The beauty and romanticism is (sure) exaggerated, the story a bit different than the original book. The balance of dark and light is my ideal until today.
The original film poster was framed up in my room from then on. I wanted til today nothing more than to become a serene, fragile beauty like the ones in the movie. One so beautiful, so godlike, that a madmen wants so kill her just to drain her from her scent. This is the reason why I chose to adapt this magnificent visual. This is the closest one can do to ‘become’ these women.
Grenouille scents a woman for the first time: The ‘mirabelle girl’ scene.
It comes naturally to me to reenact this breathtaking story not only with me but my real life partner.
The story follows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an unloved orphan in 18th-century France who is born with an exceptional sense of smell, capable of distinguishing a vast range of scents in the world around him—an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop anywhere: becomes obsessed with capturing all kinds of smell.
He encounters by accident a young woman selling mirabelles on the market: he is intoxicated by her scent. He follows her and sneaks in the backyard where she is cutting fresh fruits.
When she realizes him so close behind her, she jumps up and screams. Grenouille does not want the attention and silences her by forcing his hand over her face – and accidentally chokes her.
He is intoxicated by her scent and explores every inch of her body to soak in all the scents that still radiate whole-heartedly from her. As the heat leaves her body, her scent does to.
And leave Grenouille devastated by the realization that not all scents are made to stay. He wants nothing more than to immortalize these fleeting sensations forever.
The encounter with a unsurpassed wonderous scent. ‘Meeting Laura’.
Grenouille becomes a perfumer in Grasse, where he learns the necessary skills to enclose all kinds of flowery and herbal scents. Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood.
Then one day Grenouille catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin.
Grenouille spends a long time (years!) observing her while experimenting on how to enclose all scents. He starts killing women and embalming them with animal fat to preserve their scents.
All these scents shall be combined to a great perfume, only the key note – the heart of the perfume, is still missing.
Grenouille collects the final key note for his perfume
In the last part of the story, Grenouille finally thinks it is time to collect the last and most sublime scent of all. He murders Laura to complete his perfume.
The story does not end with Laura’s death though. Grenouille proceeds to compose his perfume, but ends up being caught and found guilty of murder. At his trial he unsuspectedly survives by using his perfume to beg forgiveness… but still empty inside, he choses to offer himself, drenched in his perfume, to the crowd – which devours him. He came back to where he started from… dust, bones and dirt.
Thoughts on the project so far: great-scale cinematic exercise to narrate scenes in more frames
For me, this portrait project is a life long dream. It took me many years to understand and perform staged images well. I did from 2013 on more and more staged images – most often it were one-frame-stories that depict every important detail in ONE composition.
With this project I went a different road: to depict this story, I had to examine each scene for their key frames and re-create more than one image. Each shooting becomes a great exercise in ‘getting the most out of one set’, including details, different perspectives and different poses. This gets even harder as I do EVERYTHING with a remote. (so there is no (!) one behind the camera), which means I have to play out every scene beforehand in my head.
I look forward to more scenes in 2020, including Grenouille learning to create perfumes, murdering women and embalming them, more detail shots from Laura and the mirabelle girl, maybe even Grenouilles trial scene and still life shots from perfume bottles and ingredients.