THE NAME OF THE ROSE
US, 1986, 130 minutes, Colour.
Sean Connery, Christian Slater, F.Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman, Michel Lonsdale, Feodor Chaliapin.
Directed by Jean- Jacques Annaud.
The Name of the Rose is a film version of Umberto Eco's bestseller. The book made an impression in the mid-'80s - church history, an analysis of monasticism in the Middle Ages, philosophical reflection on theology and philosophy of the period, an examination of science, of language and linguistics. (Memories of `A rose by any other name...' and Gertrude Stein's `A rose is a rose is a rose.')
The film-writing team of Andrew Burkin (King David), Gerard Brach (collaborator with Polanski on most of his films) and writer-director Jean Jacques Annaud (Quest for Fire, The Bear) is meant to be a version of the novel, not its equivalent. In fact, the screenplay refers to it as a palimpsest of the novel.
The film captures much of the atmosphere of the novel as well as a great deal of its explorations.
The settings are vivid, a wintry Benedictine abbey in 1327, a time of upheaval in the church - the collapse of the high Middle Ages, sects and the Inquisition, the decline of theological and philosophical thinking. Sean Connery is excellent as William of Baskerville (echoes of William of Occam) and his philosophy, Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles). Christian Slater is his novice. F. Murray Abraham is the Dominican inquisitor. A European cast performs the roles of the monks - and many of them look as if they came from Central Casting for a Fellini grotesque film. Michel Lonsdale is the abbot, Feodor Chaliapin is effective as the venerable Jorge, Ron Perlman is Salvatore.
The film is an interesting example of exploration of serious themes in cinema - including theological understandings as regards poverty and the church (the debate with the Franciscans about whether Jesus owned his own clothes) and questions of church authority (questions of a book of Aristotle's poetics surviving, exalting laughter and the question whether Jesus laughed).
An interesting and arresting film.
1. The impact of the novels of Umberto Eco? His themes, style? Interest in language and philosophy? The use of Mediaeval history, detective stories?
2. The film as an adaptation, `a palimpsest' of the novel? How effective a version and interpretation?
3. Winter 1327, North Italy, the isolated monastery, the atmosphere of the monastery, interiors and exteriors? Chapel, library, pharmacy etc? The kitchen? The musical score, the Mediaeval and liturgical music?
4. The structure of the screenplay: the journey, Adso's memories, the voice-over commentary, his observations on William of Baskerville, on the events in the monastery, on the girl and her being burnt at the stake? His own memories, his own comment on his life, fidelity to his vows? His memories of the girl?
5. The church of the period: the aftermath of millennarianism, the development of strange sects? The high Middle Ages and the 13th century - and the collapse? Monastic life, the mendicant orders, papal authority - transferred from Rome to Avignon? The role of the Inquisition not as caring for doctrine but as prosecuting heretics? Themes of Catholic doctrine, doctrine and politics, philosophy, theology and spirituality?
6. The theological issues about Jesus laughing, the consequences of fear, power being undermined, the repercussions? The decision to suppress the book indicating that Jesus might have laughed? The debate about Jesus owning his own clothes, the Franciscans and absolute poverty, the papal representatives and the church possessions?
7. The life of the monastic order, religious life, prayer, work, library work, theology, the role of the abbot and his administration, his advisers? The disruption of the murders?
8. The relationship between William and Adzo, Adzo as the apprentice, William as role-modelling religious life, his role as a theologian, his detection skills, his values, attitude towards the monks, towards the books, towards Adzo and his sexual encounter, understanding and forgiving, his attitude towards the Inquisition, power and violence? Adzo's comment on his vanities?
9. Sean Connery and William of Baskerville: presence and image, his name, William of Occam, Conan Doyle? His guiding of Adzo? His reputation, the initial detection of the toilet - elementary? His being intrigued by the deaths, the discussion with the abbot, the bodies, looking at the tower, reconstructing the scene, the carrying of the bodies? The body in the vat? Berenger in the bath? The pharmacist? His interviews with the various monks? His being thwarted? The speculation about the books and the copying, the artwork? The library - and losing his spectacles? His performance of religious duties, singing in the choir? The eccentric Franciscan considered a saint, his fanaticism, his attraction towards Adzo, his comments about women and their sanctification? The coming of the Franciscans and his sharing fraternity? The coming of Bernardo Guy and their past encounters? Hostility? The attempt on his life by Salvatore? Brother Remigial and his pressurising him for information about what had happened? The pursuit of the monks? Adzo and his sexual encounter, their discussion in the cell, William's patient understanding, helping his novice? Humanity? The choir, the death of Berenger, the death of the pharmacist? Examining the bodies, going into the library, discovering the manuscripts? His discussions with the Venerable Jorge? The antagonism and clash? The trial, his being on the bench, Bernardo Gui forcing him to give a verdict - his impassioned speech about the guilt and innocence of the accused? The maze and labyrinth, Adzo being practical and getting them out, going back and finding the Venerable Jorge? The fire, his trying to save the manuscripts? His being reunited with Adzo? Leaving - and Adzo not seeing him again? A man of vision, prayer, rationality and reason?
10. William's background as a Franciscan, the Franciscan spirit, his experience of the Inquisition, his giving in, the trial, torture? His own self-image, his seeking of the good?
11. Adzo as the young man, family background, the apprentice? Watching William? The experience of the toilets? Interest in the deaths, the bodies and the footprints, his own speculations? The attempt on their lives? In choir, in the cell? The kitchen and the encounter with the girl? The sexual encounter and the reaction? Confessing and discussing with William? His genuine love for the girl? His pleading for her against the Inquisition? Wanting William to help? His prayer prostrate before the statue of Mary? In the library, sharing in the detection? His leaving the library at William's order? The departure, his grief at the girl's death, finding the stake bare? Her being saved and his prayer answered? His life's decision about religious life? His memories of the girl?
12. The abbot, his ruling the abbey, hesitance about informing of the deaths, Jorge's advice? The talking with William and communicating? Hosting the debate, the further murders and his having to make decisions? The papal representatives? Bernardo Gui, his being on the bench and reluctantly agreeing to the execution?
13. Salvatore and Remigio, working in the kitchen, their interactions with the poor, giving them the scraps, exploiting the kitchen? The slaughter of the pig? Their background in the sect, Salvatore and his mixture of languages, Remigio and his violence for poverty - especially against the bishops? His speech of exploitation of food and women in the monastery for so many years? As suspects? Salvatore's attempt to kill William? Their collaboration? The arrest, the torture, the trial? Fear of torture? Remigio's speech? Their refusal to recant? Their being burnt - and the brutality of burning at the stake?
14. Bernardo Gui and the Dominican tradition, harsh inquisitor, his self-importance, coming to rectify situations, pre-judging guilt? Clashes with William? His inquiries and interviews, visit to the kitchen? Torture, the trial, establishing the judges? Moving to the execution, the outbreak of the fire, his attempt to escape, the reaction of the peasants and his being impaled?
15. The portrait of the Franciscans, St Francis and the background, exuberance? The fanatic and his warped sexuality, his views on the evil of women but their being transformed to Madonnas? The pilgrims, their arrival, participation in the debate?
16. The Benedictines, their way of life and tradition, the magnificent library, the monks involved in translation, copying, the role of the librarians? Translating and copying the books, the artwork? The librarians and their possessiveness? The store of books, the labyrinth? The pharmacist and his collaboration? The ordinary and the odd? Malachi and his killing the pharmacist? Relationship between the monks, Berenger and his homosexual inclinations, the monk consenting to him to look at the manuscript and then killing himself? The poisoning of the pages?
17. The solution: the reading of the book, the poison on the fingers and tongue, the death of the monk, Brother Jorge and Malachi murdering the monks?
18. Jorge and his philosophy, a blind and sinister monk, his advice to the abbot, his attitude towards the books? His theory of sobriety - in contrast with the frivolous Franciscans? The impossibility of Jesus laughing? The book of Aristotle and theory on comedy? Jesus, authority, control? His belief that the church was not to advance in understanding but always to present a marvellous recapitulation? His murders in the name of God? His fiery death - apocalyptic?
19. The girl, the people in the village, getting the scraps, mute, poor, sexuality with the monks, the attraction towards Adzo, the experience, her arrest, the trial, being led to the stake, Adzo's prayer, the people helping her escape? Her living in Adzo's memory?
20. The film as a portrait of a period of the church's history? Insight into the church? Into the changes of history?