Friday, June 22, 2018

Movie #466: The Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose is a murder mystery directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the novel by Umberto Eco, and starring Sean Connery, Christian Slater, F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman, Helmut Qualtinger, and Valentina Vargas.

William of Baskerville (Connery), a Franciscan monk, arrives at a Dominican monastery with his young novice Adso (Slater) in preparation for a debate. He discovers, though, that there has been a death - a young monk fell from a tower to his death, and the circumstances make the other monks think "the Devil" because they're, well, monks, and sciencey things don't really occur to them when magical things are available. More deaths follow and Baskerville contends with the increasingly gruesome and macabre murders, all of which seem to hinge on a book written in Greek, but into all this, the debate begins, the fucking Inquisition (in the personage of Bernardo Gui, played with merciless intensity by Abraham) shows up, and Adso gets seduced by a young village woman (Vargas) and has to contend with what that means for his faith.

In the end, the monastery is destroyed, all of their beautiful books burned, a bunch of people are dead, and Adso and Baskerville ride off, leaving the girl behind to her poverty. Adso, writing his memoir in the future, notes that while he loved that girl all his life, he never learned her name.

So, I've seen this movie a couple of times, but I think the copies I saw before were not great because I remember the movie being visually hard to process; I think it was just that I was watching on crappy VHS. This time was better, and I could make out the differences between characters a little better, but it doesn't help that most of the background characters are old white men dressed identically, which makes telling them apart hard. It's not a big problem when it comes to, say, Perlman (who's distinctive anyway, and his performance as the near-toothless heretic Salvatore is...memorable), but it does make some crowd scenes hard to follow.

But beyond that, the movie has a lot going on. The Franciscans are concerned that the Pope is going to abolish them, which probably means they're screwed because they'll be declared heretics, and here's Baskerville running off at the mouth and arguing that maybe, just maybe, people are capable of killing each other just fine without Satan getting involved. The local villagers are desperately poor, but they give tithes to the monastery in the form of food, and then get food given back when it's poured out a chute like garbage. The movie does a good job, in my opinion, of highlighting how privileged and arrogant these folks are, even Baskerville, who's a lot more thoughtful than most of the monks.

It's a heavy movie, it's well-shot and well-acted; I actually think it's one of Connery's better roles. It's also, as I recall, a pretty good adaptation of the novel.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: The Natural