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The Name of the Rose (film)

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Title: The Name of the Rose (film)  
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Subject: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Christian Slater, F. Murray Abraham, Valentina Vargas, Helmut Qualtinger
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The Name of the Rose (film)

The Name of the Rose
original film poster by Drew Struzan
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Produced by Franco Cristaldi
Bernd Eichinger
Alexandre Mnouchkine
Bernd Schaefers
Herman Weigel
Screenplay by Andrew Birkin
Gérard Brach
Howard Franklin
Alain Godard
Based on The Name of the Rose 
by Umberto Eco
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Tonino Delli Colli
Edited by Jane Seitz
Cristaldi Film
Radiotelevisione Italiana
Neue Constantin Film
France 3 Cinema
Les Films De Ariane
Acteurs Auteurs Associés
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 (Italian: Il nome della rosa, German: Der Name der Rose, French: Le nom de la rose) is a 1986 film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the book of the same name by Umberto Eco.[2] Sean Connery is 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.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Reception 4
  • Awards 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


As an old man nearing the end of his life, Adso, youngest son of the Baron of Melk recounts how, as a young novice in 1327, he accompanied his mentor, the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville to a Benedictine abbey in Northern Italy. The abbey had been chosen as the site for a theological debate between the Franciscan order and the Pope on the poverty of Christ. The abbey is already home to a famed scriptorium where scribes copy, translate or illuminate books. The mysterious recent death of the monk Adelmo of Otranto - a young but famous illuminator - has stirred fears among the abbey's devout inhabitants. The Abbot seeks help from William, known for his deductive powers. The illuminator's death cannot be dismissed as a suicide because the body was found at the foot of a tower having only a window which cannot be opened. William is reluctant to involve himself, though he is persuaded not only because of the intellectual challenge, but also because of his desire to disprove fears of a demonic culprit in Adelmo's death. William is also motivated to act by his fears that the Abbot will summon officials of the inquisition if the mystery remains unsolved.

William soon confirms that Adelmo indeed committed suicide, having fallen from a different tower. Despite that explanation, Venantius, a Greek translator and the last to speak with Adelmo, dies, his body found in a vat filled with the blood of slaughtered pigs. The translator's corpse is found to have a black stain on a finger and his tongue. While at a loss, William insists that Adelmo killed himself and that a reasonable explanation exists for the translator's death. The other monks fear a supernatural cause, suspicions 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 the desk of Adelmo, but is blocked from doing so by Brother Berengar, the assistant librarian. Brother Malachia, another librarian, refuses to allow William access into the rest of the building.

Outside William encounters Salvatore, a demented hunchback, and his protector, Remigio da Varagine. William soon realizes both Salvatore and Remigio were both former Dulcinians, members of a heretical sect, who believed that clergy should be impoverished or killed. William doubts that Salvatore and Remigio are to blame since Dulcinites targeted wealthy Bishops, not poor monks. Nevertheless, Remigio's past gives William leverage in learning the abbey's secrets. From Salvatore, William learns 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 shard of parchment bearing both Greek writing and smudges of a color blended by Adelmo for illuminating books, both suggesting another link between the two dead men. The parchment also bears cryptic symbols written by a left-handed man using invisible ink. Brother Berengar, having snuck unseen into the darkened library, distracts William and steals the book and a pair of magnifying glasses that William had been using to read the book.

William suspects that Berengar is the crucial piece of the puzzle, but the abbey's herbalist informs William that Berengar is also dead, his body found drowned in a bath. The herbalist also finds a pair of magnifying glasses that William had lost in the library that night, but not the book in Greek that he had been trying to read. Berengar's body has black stains similar to those found on Venantius. Having lost his living link to the crime, 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 cause for the deaths, and not a spiritual one, and demands access to the library. William theorizes that the greek notes on the parchment were transcribed by the translator 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. He insists that William end his investigations. Burning the parchment, the Abbot informs him 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 find a hidden entrance to a vast, hidden library above the scriptorium. A lover of knowledge, William is overjoyed to have found "one of the greatest libraries in all Christendom." 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 reveals to Adso that he and Bernardo Gui have crossed paths before. Years earlier, as an inquisitor, William was tortured when refusing Bernardo Gui's demand that he convict a Greek translator of heresy. 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 confessing.

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

Knowing Remigio's Dulcanite past, Bernardo 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 immediately recognizes William. At his trial, Remigio proudly admits his past - which included killing bishops and priests - but steadfastly 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 threat of torture, Remigio "confesses" to murder. 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 prediction of murder makes him the natural suspect for committing the crime. As the other monks prepare to burn Gui's prisoners at the stake, William and Adso reenter the secret library. 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 Jorge turn over the book that the dead men had been reading - Aristotle's Second Book 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, but not Salvatore and Remigio. Gui attempts to flee but his wagon is tumbled off a cliff, killing him. 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 narration, 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 76% 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]


  • The film was awarded the César for best foreign film.
  • The film was awarded two BAFTAs. Sean Connery for best actor, and Hasso von Hugo won Best Make Up Artist.

See also


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
  2. ^  
  3. ^ a b c d e f DVD commentary by Jean-Jacques Annaud
  4. ^ Box Office Mojo entry
  5. ^ Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Guardian

External links

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