It is not often I get to say that I enjoyed a movie as much as I did the book but I can almost say this about Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. I can’t easily say “I enjoyed” either because the subject matter is so perverse. Above and beyond the sensational or suppositional, this novel has a symbolism and central themes which are so disturbing as to make it nearly impossible for me to highly recommend it. And yet, the writing is poetic, told as though it were a fable or a parable. I avoided seeing the movie because I was convinced that there is simply no way anyone could translate the story to film with the same evocative power. I dreaded especially that the disturbing nature of the story would be lost, replaced with a more salacious interpretation of the narrative. However, the director did an amazing job and I was simply blown away, am blown away. I would say that if you are inclined to see the movie and haven’t read the book but would then read the book first. If you are not a reader by nature then see the movie. But don’t blame me if you walk away from one or the other or both feeling stunned into submission. It simply has that effect on the reader. (PS: From the first scene, Rob was unsure about watching the whole movie. However, he sat through it all and said afterwards that it is very good. I mention this because Rob and I often have disparate taste in movies and this is one that met us on many surprising levels.)
I watched Aimée and Jaguar because I had read and enjoyed the memoir. Hmmm . . . maybe “enjoyed” is not quite the right word here either. The story of Lilly Wust’s affair with Felice Schragenheim was, on the page, a complicated one, full of ambivalence and ambiguity. A Nazi officer’s wife falling in love with a member of the resistance who is also a Jew? Maria Schrader as Felice/Jaguar is so beautiful and gives the character a necessary much strength and confidence, while also allowing the audience to see her fear, that I wanted to immediately find other movies in which she has a starring role. Her first lover in the film, Ilse, is played by Inge Keller whom I thought was far prettier than the book suggested she was. In fact, the entire movie seemed to be only loosely based on the book. That Lilly/Aimée had multiple affairs on her husband is shown but there is no context for anything that happens. He seems to be more present on the screen than he was on the page. As for the rest of the movie, it is good, often very good, but it is impossible for me to say I liked it because I felt it lost some of the strength the memoir had. Something was lost for me in the translation and I found that disappointing.
Bent with Clive Owen is yet another movie that left me feeling uneasy but admiring. Owen’s character, Max, is not likeable from the very first moment. Adored by his lover, Max takes a lover, a stormtrooper from the early days of the Nazi rise before Hitler purged his inner circle of the “perversion” of homosexuality. The decadence of the times is more broadly played out than in any other movie of the era I have seen. And when the inevitable happens, the aftermath is harrowing. Max, determined to live, will do so at any cost. However, he needs to feel connection and how he goes about building a relationship is . . . well, it is lovely and desperate. Also a little frightening because the audience knows that this man is uncompromising in his will to survive. For better or worse. And he is trying to survive the worst the best way he knows how. How he ultimately redeems himself is harrowing. A purely cathartic drama. (PS: Do not the wikipedia article before seeing the movie. It contains huge spoilers. Either see the play or the movie and then, if you must, read the article.)