PERFUME tells the story of a man who is obsessed by the idea of creating the perfect perfume. The novel, by Patrick SÃ¼skind, was written in 1985 and has been translated into 45 languages, so far selling more than 15 million copies worldwide, making it the most successful novel of post-war German literature. The film boasts a top-class cast of international actors such as Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman and up-and-coming talent Rachel Hurd-Wood, and an original soundtrack from the film's director Tom Tykwer, recorded by Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker and released exclusively on EMI Classics - the first soundtrack from this internationally acclaimed award-winning partnership.
The soundtrack, with its symphonic appeal reaching from airy and light sounds to majestically heavy motifs, manages with stylistic verve to make the world of odours downright tangible. The orchestra closely and cautiously follows in the steps of the plot, taking up the historical atmosphere of the 18th century and yet remaining entangled in the universe of olfactory attractions. The choir pieces, recorded in Riga by the National Choir of Latvia, lend a sacral and spherical aspect to many passages whilst the body of sound from the Berliner Philharmoniker produces soundscapes to indulge the senses. If the soul of a human is his odour, as Grenouille states in the film, then music is the heartbeat of the film.
Germany's Tom Tykwer is among the rare directors who score their own movies (Charlie Chaplin, Clint Eastwood, and John Carpenter also belong to that small circle). Here, he and his regular collaborators, Johnny Klimer and Reinhold Heil (both boasting experience with... Nina Hagen!) have come up with a symphonic score performed by none other than Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker, with Absolute Ensemble founder Kristian Järvi conducting the State Choir Latvia. Alas, even Rattle and Järvi cannot make the score more than mildly pleasant--and ultimately unmemorable. Overall the vocal cues fare best: Soprano Chen Reiss shines on "Meeting Laura," for instance, a track that displays vague Philip Glass-esque echoes. Another highlight is the contribution of eerie-sounding boy soprano Victor de Maizière on "Laura's Murder." Elsewhere, the composing trio mercifully doesn't overdo the middle-oriental exoticism on "Moorish Scents," though the track does feature a glockenspiel--now officially the most overused instrument on contemporary soundtracks. --Elisabeth Vincentelli