The Name of the Rose Movie Review

Franciscan and Benedictine monks are dispatched to a remote monastery to resolve a dispute over doctrine in The Name of the Rose. When William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) and his novice Adso (a very young Christian Slater) arrive, they find the discussions have been stalled by the death of a young, talented scribe. The resident monks are all atwitter, wringing their hands and worrying that the murder is a sign of the apocalypse. Their fervor reaches a fever pitch as more of their brethren begin to turn up dead, describing some choice passages of Revelations. So William fires up his logic, ceaselessly name checks Aristotle and begins to piece together a mystery that involves secret secular knowledge, a labyrinthine library, and a struggle between wild religious superstition and cold reason.

Based on Umberto Eco's dense and demanding bestseller, The Name of the Rose, is basically a love letter to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Unfortunately, the film version never passes up an opportunity to remind us of that fact.

There is some real detective work going on, and overall it's fun to watch the whodunit at the core of film unfold. But we get a deerstalker full of cheap deductions and observations along the way, laying a thin coating of crap over what is otherwise an effective murder mystery. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud and his staff of writers are too interested in intertextual cleverness to allow the audience to do the some simple sleuthing of its own. Is it too much to ask the audience to connect William of Baskerville with the Sherlock Holmes story that shares his name? Do we really need the awkward "It's elementary," delivered with a veritable wink? William even uses his powers of deduction to solve the mysterious location of the bathroom. Seriously.

Annaud does a great job, however, conjuring up a godforsaken medieval monastery that is about a appealing as the black plague. And that's the point. We get a slaughterhouse with its steaming buckets of blood and fleshy pig entrails. How about a sluice gate garbage disposal system that doubles as dinner bell for local inhabitants? Foreboding stone buildings set atop misty mountain peaks? Check. The supporting roles are dressed up much the same, presumably by Hieronymus Bosch's casting director. Blind monks watch wits with raving religious lunatics, while in the background a sweaty, bald cleric punishes his flesh with a cat-o'-nine-tails. But the standout here is heretical hunchback Salvatore (Ron Perlman), whose unintelligible pan-linguistic babbling makes him an easy scapegoat when the Inquisition unexpectedly comes calling.

But the window dressing is not enough to buoy the principle acting. Connery looks like he's having fun throughout, but he's too cavalier to be convincing as a 14th century monk. When Slater's face isn't over-expressing fear and confusion, it settles into a deer-in-the-headlights torpor. And the brief appearance of F. Murray Abraham as Inquisitor Bernardo Gui is limited to fiery glaring and grand proclamations.

The Name of the Rose has the insight to use the setting and practices of the early Church for creepy effect, but treats the audience too much like Dr. Watson.

Aka Der Name der Rose.

Comments

The Name of the Rose Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 1986

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