Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Film Studies

First Advisor

Nam Lee

Second Advisor

Erica Aguero

Third Advisor

Stephanie Takaragawa


This thesis explores smell as a cultural signifier in Perfume’s multimedia storytelling. By establishing the theoretical ground upon the historical importance of scent, the thesis focuses particularly on its close interrelationships with the politics of identity, an issue elaborated in Patrick Süskind’s novel Das Parfum–Die Geschichte Eines Mörders (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, 1985) as well as its two screen adaptations--the film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (dir. Tom Tykwer, 2006) and the television series Parfum (Netflix, 2018). In virtue of textual analysis and cultural studies on Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s discussion on Enlightenment, Martin Heidegger’s Existentialist philosophy, Foucouldian governmentality, and neoliberal language of self-sufficiency, the thesis analyzes how smell could be effectively visualized through cinematic techniques while ideologically decoding Perfume as a critique of capitalist culture that exerts manipulation, standardization, and fragmentation of individual identity. In conclusion, the three texts of Perfume provide the audience with a unique story universe about olfactory imagination to expose people’s struggles with the sense of self under capitalist development. Meanwhile, the thesis proves that smell as a social and cultural discourse has crucial sense in film and media studies, whilst functioning deeply in people’s everyday life.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.