Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Composer-Writer-Director Tom Tykwer on Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
1-3-07 WCT Interview*
by Richard Knight, Jr.
A formal portrait of the young triple threat and onset with Perfume's leading player Ben Whishaw
The boyishly handsome Tom Tykwer (“Tic-vur”), with his spiky black hair, black clothes and heavy German accent is exhausted after
four years of non-stop work as director, co-screenwriter and co-composer of the music score for his new film, Perfume: The Story of a
Murderer. But the exhaustion was forgotten the moment he started talking about the mesmerizing film. Tykwer, previously known
best to American audiences for Run, Lola, Run will see that change after the film’s release this Friday in Chicago.
Highlights from his conversation with Windy City Times:
WCT: I think this is one of the best movies of the year. Have you been hearing that a lot? It’s an astonishing piece of work.
TT: (delighted) Thank you. You know what, I need to hear that. I’m dying to hear this. Can I not talk and you just tell me about
TT: (laughs) I’m just kidding.
WCT: The complexity of the design of the production is so dense it has a stunning impact.
TT: I wanted to make a film that feels completely modern and contemporary and at the same time catapults you back into that
period. To make it a bit like a cinema vérité experience of the 18th century. That was the ambition and at the same time it is kind
of crazy. Because psychologically you sometimes get nuts about it.
WCT: This movie looked like it had a $200 million dollar budget.
TT: It was a little less than $60 million.
WCT: And so the final result has to be due to the elaborate preparation. You don’t have the budget to make mistakes.
TT: Yes. It was a sustained shoot. Every day was 16 hours and everyone was extreme in their belief in the film. Nobody was really
paid particularly well. It all went to put it on the screen. That was the idea. To make it look so overwhelmingly rich and detailed
and multilayered because this guy encounters the world through detail so we needed to have detail everywhere and at the same
time have this throwaway attitude towards background, the whole design. Not to show off with it at all but to have it just there as if
we were in a time machine with a camera and we’re running around in the 18th century and we really didn’t care about showing
something – we’re following the character and the background is what it is.
WCT: All that planning – all those years. Are you happy with the finished result?
TT: I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done and it’s a bit embarrassing to say so maybe (laughs) but I actually know it is and
anybody who disagrees with that – I disagree with his disagreement!
(we both laugh big)
WCT: The hell with them! Okay, here’s a gay related question: I was thinking John Waters had “Odorama” for Polyester and
wondered, since this is a film about a guy with an unusually large olfactory sense – did you ever think about doing a scratch-n-sniff
card for the film?
TT: I think it would have been the most fantasy-less, ridiculous, stupid idea that ever sailed the seven seas.
(We’re both laughing)
WCT: Gee, we had a great conversation up to this point, eh?
TT: (laughs) Yes – and now this insult! Actually, to give you a quick story. I used to work in a cinema that played Polyester for six
months and I was the guy who had to screen the movie and then go into the empty theatre and pick up all these bloody cards which
smelled like hell and the whole place was like a stinking mess and I thought, “This is the most uninspired idea that ever has
WCT: I’m sure you were thinking, “When I make my film about odors it’s going to smell good!”
*During my interview with Tykwer we also talked at length about the music score he wrote for Perfume (along with his two regular
collaborators). That portion of the interview was the basis for a piece I wrote for the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times. Click
HERE to read it.