The Name of the Rose (film)

The Name of the Rose

Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Produced by Bernd Eichinger
Thomas Schühly
Jake Eberts
Alexandre Mnouchkine
Bernd Schaefers
Herman Weigel
Franco Cristaldi
Screenplay by Andrew Birkin
Gérard Brach
Howard Franklin
Alain Godard
Based on The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco
Narrated by Dwight Weist
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Tonino Delli Colli
Edited by Jane Seitz
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
(USA & Canada)
Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • September 24, 1986 (1986-09-24) (United States)
  • October 16, 1986 (1986-10-16) (West Germany)
  • October 17, 1986 (1986-10-17) (Italy)
  • December 17, 1986 (1986-12-17) (France)
Running time
126 minutes
Country Italy
West Germany
Language English
Budget $17.5 million[1]
Box office $77,153,487

The Name of the Rose is a 1986 Italian-French-German drama mystery film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the book of the same name by Umberto Eco.[2] Sean Connery stars as the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and Christian Slater is his apprentice Adso of Melk, who are called upon to solve a deadly mystery in a medieval abbey.


As an old man, Adso, son of the Baron of Melk recounts how, as a young novice in 1327, he joined his mentor, Franciscan friar William of Baskerville on a journey to a Benedictine abbey in Northern Italy where the Franciscans were to debate with Papal emissaries the poverty of Christ. The abbey also boasts a famed scriptorium where scribes copy, translate or illuminate books. The suspicious recent death of the monk Adelmo of Otranto —a young but famous manuscript illuminator— has stirred fears among the abbey's inhabitants. The Abbot seeks help from William, known for his deductive powers. Adelmo's death cannot be a suicide because his body was found below a tower with only a window which cannot be opened. William is reluctant, but also drawn by the intellectual challenge and his desire to disprove fears of a demonic culprit. William also fears the abbot will summon officials of the Inquisition if the mystery remains unsolved.

William soon concludes that Adelmo's death was indeed suicide; he fell from a different tower. Nevertheless, Venantius, a Greek translator —and the last to speak with Adelmo— is found dead in a vat filled with the blood of slaughtered pigs. The translator's corpse bears a black stain on a finger and his tongue. At a loss, William insists that Adelmo killed himself and that the translator's death can be reasonably explained. The other monks suspect a supernatural cause, fears reinforced when the saintly Fransciscan monk Ubertino of Casale warns that the deaths resemble signs mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

In the scriptorium, William inspects Adelmo's desk, but is blocked by Brother Berengar, the assistant librarian. Brother Malachia, Head Librarian, denies William access to the rest of the building.

William encounters Salvatore, a demented hunchback, and his protector, Remigio da Varagine, the cellarer. William deduces that both are former Dulcinites, members of a heretical sect which believed that clergy should be impoverished. William does not suspect Salvatore and Remigio of murder since Dulcinites targeted wealthy Bishops, not poor monks. Nevertheless, Remigio's past gives William leverage in learning the abbey's secrets. Salvatore tells William that Adelmo had crossed paths with Venantius on the night that Adelmo died. Meanwhile, Adso encounters a beautiful semi-feral peasant girl who has apparently sneaked into the abbey to trade sexual favours for food; she seduces him, and he falls in love with her.

Returning that night to Venantius's desk, William finds a book in Greek, and also a parchment bearing both Greek writing and smudges of a color blended by Adelmo for illuminating books, suggesting another link between Venantius and Adelmo. The parchment also bears cryptic symbols written by a left-handed man using invisible ink. Brother Berengar, having sneaked into the darkened library, distracts William and steals the book and a pair of magnifying glasses that William had been using to read it.

William suspects that Berengar is the crucial piece of the puzzle, but the abbey's herbalist informs William that Berengar has been found dead, drowned in a bath and bearing stains similar to those seen on Venantius. The herbalist finds William's magnifying glasses nearby, but not the Greek book Berengar had taken. William confronts the Abbot with the parchment found in the scriptorium, proving its links to Venantius and Adelmo and—since Berengar was the only left handed man in the abbey, the assistant librarian as well. William insists that the parchment proves a human—and not demonic—cause for the deaths, and demands access to the library. William theorizes that the translator transcribed the Greek notes on the parchment from a book he had been reading, and that the now missing book had been read by each of the dead men and was somehow responsible for their deaths.

The Abbot is unconvinced and insists that William end his investigations. Burning the parchment, the Abbot informs William that the Inquisition —in the person of Bernardo Gui— has already been summoned.

Determined to solve the mystery before the Inquisition arrives, William and Adso again enter the library and discover a vast, hidden library above the scriptorium. A lover of knowledge, William is overjoyed. William suspects the abbey of keeping the books hidden because so much of their knowledge comes from pagan philosophers and cannot be reconciled with Christianity.

William tells Adso that he and Bernardo Gui have crossed paths before, years earlier, when William was an inquisitor. Like the Abbot, the Benedictine monks and even William's fellow Franciscans, Gui settles on the devil as the culprit. Soon after arriving, Gui finds Salvatore and the peasant girl fighting over a black cockerel while in the presence of a black cat. For Gui, this is irrefutable proof of witchcraft, and he tortures Salvatore into a false confession.

As the theological debate begins, the abbey's herbalist finds a book written in Greek in his dispensary, and is overheard telling this to William. Soon, the herbalist is found murdered in the now ransacked dispensary.

Learning Remigio's Dulcanite past, Gui arrests him for the murders. With Salvatore and the peasant girl, Remigio is brought before a tribunal for which Gui, the Abbot and also Willam will be judges, Gui having recognized William. At his trial, Remigio proudly admits his past—which included killing bishops and priests—but denies having killed anyone in the abbey. While the Abbot quickly condemns Remigio for murder, William does not, pointing out that the murders are tied to a book written in Greek, which Remigio cannot read. William warns that Remigio's death won't end the string of deaths that have plagued the abbey. Under Gui's threats of torture, Remigio "confesses". Gui arranges for the prisoners to be burned at the stake, while William, having "relapsed", will be taken to Avignon.

Soon Brother Malachia is seen dying, also having black stains on his tongue and finger, as William had predicted. Gui turns suspicion toward William, telling the monks that William's prior knowledge of the murder makes him the natural suspect. As the monks prepare Gui's prisoners at the stake, William and Adso re-enter the secret library, and there, they come face to face with the Venerable Jorge, the most ancient denizen of the abbey. Having recognized the lines on the translator's parchment, William demands that Jorge turn over the book that the dead men had been reading—Aristotle's Second Book of Poetics on Comedy. Jorge reveals that William's theories were correct, and "rewards" him by presenting him with a copy of the book, likely the only surviving copy, the existence of which Jorge had vehemently denied earlier. William realizes that the corners of each page are coated with poison, and monks turning its pages, touch both the corner and their own tongues. Believing laughter to be sinful, Jorge has poisoned the pages: those reading the book would unwittingly ingest the poison. Confronted, Jorge starts a blaze that quickly engulfs the library. William insists that Adso flee, as he vainly tries to save the books. Jorge kills himself by consuming the poison-coated pages. Most of the books, including the last volume of Poetics, are lost.

Seeing the fire, the monks abandon the burning of Gui's prisoners, allowing the local peasants to save the girl and turn on Gui. Gui is killed when his wagon tumbles off a cliff. William and Adso later take their leave of the Abbey. On the road, Adso is stopped by the girl, silently appealing for him to stay with her, but Adso continues on with William. In his closing narrative, a much older Adso reflects that he never regretted his decision, and that the girl was the only earthly love of his life, yet he never learned her name.



Rocca Calascio in Abruzzo: a shooting location of the film
Castel del Monte, Apulia, set of the library of the abbey

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud once told Umberto Eco that he was convinced the book was written for only one person to direct, that is to say himself. He felt personally intrigued by the project, among other things because of a lifelong fascination with medieval churches and a great familiarity with Latin and Greek.[3]

Annaud spent four years preparing the film, traveling throughout the United States and Europe, searching for the perfect multiethnic cast with interesting and distinctive faces. He resisted suggestions to cast Sean Connery for the part of William because he felt that the character, who was already an amalgam of Sherlock Holmes and William of Occam, would become too overwhelming with "007" added.[3] Later, after Annaud failed to find another actor he liked for the part, he was won over by Connery's reading, but Eco was dismayed by the casting choice and Columbia Pictures pulled out, as Connery's career was then in a slump.[3] Christian Slater was cast through a large-scale audition of teenage boys.[3] For the wordless scene in which the Girl seduces Adso, Annaud allowed Valentina Vargas to lead the scene without his direction. Annaud did not explain to Slater what she would be doing in order to elicit a more authentic performance from the actors.[3]

The exterior and some of the interiors of the monastery seen in the film were constructed as a replica on a hilltop outside Rome, and ended up being the biggest exterior set built in Europe since Cleopatra. Many of the interiors were shot at Eberbach Abbey, Germany. Most props, including period illuminated manuscripts, were produced specifically for the film.[3]


The film did poorly at the box office in the United States, playing at only 176 theatres and grossing only $7.2 million in return on a $17 million budget.[4] However, it was popular in many parts of Europe and had a worldwide gross of over $77 million.

It received generally positive reviews from American and Italian critics, with review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 73% approval rating.[5] Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 stars out of a possible 4, writing, "What we have here is the setup for a wonderful movie. What we get is a very confused story [...] It's all inspiration and no discipline."[6] In 2011, Eco was quoted as giving a mixed review for the adaptation of his novel: "A book like this is a club sandwich, with turkey, salami, tomato, cheese, lettuce. And the movie is obliged to choose only the lettuce or the cheese, eliminating everything else – the theological side, the political side. It's a nice movie."[7]


See also


  1. Aubrey Solomon (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Scarecrow Press. p. 260.
  2. Canby, Vincent (September 24, 1986). "The Name of the Rose (1986) FILM: MEDIEVAL MYSTERY IN 'NAME OF THE ROSE'". The New York Times.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 DVD commentary by Jean-Jacques Annaud
  4. Box Office Mojo entry
  5. Rotten Tomatoes
  7. The Guardian
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