The Name of the Rose (film)

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The Name of the Rose
Name of rose movieposter.jpg
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Produced by Bernd Eichinger
Bernd Schaefers
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
ZDF Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen
France 3 Cinema
Radiotelevisione Italiana
Neue Constantin Film
Les Films De Ariane
Acteurs Auteurs Associés
Cristaldi Film
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
(USA & Canada)
Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • 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 recounts how, as a young novice in 1327, he and his mentor, Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, traveled to a Benedictine abbey in northern Italy where the Franciscans were to debate with Papal emissaries the poverty of Christ. The abbey boasts a famed scriptorium where scribes copy, translate or illuminate books. The monk Adelmo of Otranto —a young but famous manuscript illuminator— has suspiciously died. The abbot seeks help from William, renowned for his deductive powers. It cannot be a suicide because the body was found below a tower with only a window which cannot be opened. William is reluctantly drawn in by the intellectual challenge and his desire to disprove fears of a demonic culprit. William also worries 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 of pig blood. The corpse bears a black stain on a finger and the tongue. The 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, the 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 were Dulcinites, members of a heretical sect that believes that clergy should be impoverished. William does not suspect them of murder though, since Dulcinites target 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.

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

Berengar is later found drowned in a bath and bearing stains similar to those on Venantius. William confronts the abbot with the parchment, proving its links to Venantius and Adelmo and Berengar, the only left-handed man in the abbey. William theorizes that the translator transcribed the Greek notes on the parchment from a book, and that the book is somehow responsible for the deaths. The abbot is unconvinced and insists that William end his investigations. Burning the parchment, he informs William that the Inquisition —in the person of Bernardo Gui— has already been summoned.

Determined to solve the mystery before Gui arrives, William and Adso discover a vast, hidden library above the scriptorium. William suspects the abbey hid the books because much of their contents comes from pagan philosophers.

William tells Adso that he and Gui have clashed years before. Like the abbot, the monks and even William's fellow Franciscans, Gui concludes the devil as the culprit. 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. Along with Salvatore and the girl, Remigio is brought before a tribunal, with Gui, the abbot and William as judges. 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 points out that the murders are tied to the book written in Greek, which Remigio could not read. William warns that Remigio's execution will not end the murders. Under Gui's threats of torture, however, Remigio "confesses". Gui arranges for the prisoners to be burned at the stake, while William, having "relapsed", will be taken to Avignon.

Soon Malachia is dying, with black stains on his tongue and finger. As the monks prepare Gui's prisoners for execution, William and Adso re-enter the secret library and come face to face with the Venerable Jorge, the oldest 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 with the book, likely the only copy in existence. William realizes that the corners of each page are coated with poison, and the dead monks had wet their fingers on their tongues to turn its pages. Believing laughter to be sinful, Jorge thus killed those who had read the book. Confronted, Jorge starts a blaze that quickly engulfs the library. William vainly tries to save some of the books. Jorge kills himself by consuming the poison-coated pages.

Seeing the fire, the monks abandon the prisoners, allowing the local peasants to save the girl and kill Gui by pushing his wagon off a cliff. As William and Adso depart, Adso encounters the girl, but chooses to go with William. The much older Adso states 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]


  • 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[edit]


  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. ^ 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[edit]