The Name of the Rose (film)

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The Name of the Rose
Name of rose movieposter.jpg
Original film poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byJean-Jacques Annaud
Screenplay by
Based onThe Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco
Produced by
Narrated byDwight Weist
CinematographyTonino Delli Colli
Edited byJane Seitz
Music byJames Horner
Distributed byColumbia Pictures (Italy)
Neue Constantin Film (Germany)[1]
Acteurs Auteurs Associés (France)[1]
Release dates
  • 19 September 1986 (1986-09-19) (United States)
  • 16 October 1986 (1986-10-16) (West Germany)
  • 17 October 1986 (1986-10-17) (Italy)
  • 17 December 1986 (1986-12-17) (France)
Running time
131 minutes
  • Italy
  • West Germany
  • France
Budget$17.5 million[2]
Box office$77.2 million

The Name of the Rose is a 1986 historical mystery film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Umberto Eco.[3] Sean Connery stars as the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, called upon to solve a deadly mystery in a medieval abbey. Christian Slater portrays his young apprentice, Adso of Melk, and F. Murray Abraham his Inquisitor rival, Bernardo Gui. Michael Lonsdale, William Hickey, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Valentina Vargas, and Ron Perlman play supporting roles.

This English-language film was an international co-production between West German, French, and Italian companies [4] and was filmed in Rome and at the former Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau. It received mixed to positive reviews from critics and won several awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Sean Connery. Another adaptation was made in 2019 as a television miniseries for RAI.


Adso of Melk recounts how, in 1327, as a young Franciscan novice, 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— was suspiciously found dead on a hillside below a tower with only a window that could not be opened. The abbot seeks help from William, who is renowned for his deductive powers. 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 quickly deduces that Adelmo committed suicide, having jumped from a nearby tower having a window, and that the slope of the hill caused the body to roll below the other tower. William's solution briefly allays the monks' fears, until another Monk is found dead, ominously floating in a vat of pig's blood. The victim is Venantius, a translator of Greek and the last man to speak with Adelmo. The corpse bears black stains on a finger and the tongue. The translator's death rekindles the monks' fears of a supernatural culprit, fears reinforced when the saintly Fransciscan friar 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, militant sect that believes that clergy should be impoverished. William does not suspect them of murder though because 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 sneaked into the abbey to trade sexual favors for food, and is seduced by her.

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

Berengar is later found drowned in a bath and bearing stains similar to those on Venantius. William narrates his conclusions that Adelmo's death was indeed suicide, due to giving in to Berengar's requests for homosexual favors. Venantius received a parchment from Adelmo before Adelmo's death, and Berengar is 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, burning the parchment, he informs William that the Inquisition — in the person of Bernardo Gui, an old adversary of William from his former time as an inquisitor — 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. 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 both William's Franciscan brothers and the papal delegates arrive, the debate begins. The abbey's herbalist, after telling William he has found a book written in Greek in his dispensary, is murdered by what is revealed to be Malachia. The latter tricks Remigio into attempting to escape, causing him to be arrested by Gui's guards and charged with the murders.

Remigio, Salvatore and the girl are brought before a tribunal. Remembering William, Gui chooses him to join the abbot as a tribunal judge. At trial, Remigio proudly admits his Dulcinite past and, under Gui's threats of torture, also falsely confesses to the murders. William points out that the murders are tied to the Greek book, which Remigio could not read, and warns that Remigio's execution will not end the murders. Gui arranges for the prisoners to be burned at the stake, while William will be taken to Avignon. The papal delegates condemn the Franciscans for William's obstinacy and end the debate.

As the monks prepare to burn Gui's prisoners, Malachia is found dying, with black stains on his tongue and finger. Although Malachia's death vindicates William's warning, Gui takes it as proof that William is the murderer, and orders his arrest. Fleeing Gui's guards, William and Adso re-enter the secret library and come face to face with the blind Venerable Jorge, the oldest denizen of the abbey. Having decoded 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 hates laughter, thinking it undermines faith in God, and a book on laughter written by Arisotle will only bring laughter to the wise men, and undermine the faith among those of learning. To prevent that, Jorge killed those who had read the book by poisoning its pages. Jorge gives the book to William, thinking he too will suffer the poison. When William reveals that he is wearing gloves, Jorge grabs the book, then starts a blaze that quickly engulfs the library. William stays behind, trying to save some of the books and encouraging Adso to leave. 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, though Salvatore and Remigio die. Adso chases Gui, who manages to escape him, but the peasants push his wagon off a cliff, impaling him. As William and Adso depart, Adso encounters the girl, stops for a few seconds, but eventually chooses to go with William. The much older Adso states that he never regretted his decision as he learned many more things from William before their ways parted. He also says that the girl was the only earthly love of his life, but he never learned her name.



Rocca Calascio in Abruzzo: erroneously believed to be a shooting location of the film, used instead for Ladyhawke
Castel del Monte, Apulia, inspiration for the reconstruction 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: himself. He felt personally intrigued by the project and other things because of a lifelong fascination with medieval churches and a great familiarity with Latin and Greek.[5]

Annaud spent four years preparing the film, traveling throughout the United States and Europe, searching for the perfect multi-ethnic cast with interesting and distinctive faces. He resisted suggestions to cast Sean Connery for the part of William because he felt the character, who was already an amalgam of Sherlock Holmes and William of Occam, would become too overwhelming with "007" added.[5] 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 because Connery's career was then in a slump.[5]

Christian Slater was cast through a large-scale audition of teenage boys.[5] 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.[5]

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 (1963). Many of the interiors were shot at Eberbach Abbey, Germany. Most props, including period illuminated manuscripts, were produced specifically for the film.[5]


The film did poorly at the box office in the United States: it played at 176 theaters and grossed $7.2 million on a $17 million budget.[6] However, it was popular in many parts of Europe and grossed over $77.2 million worldwide.

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."[7]Time Out gave the film a positive review. Time Out described the film "As intelligent a reductio of Umberto Eco's sly farrago of whodunnit and medieval metaphysics as one could have wished for...the film simply looks good, really succeeds in communicating the sense and spirit of a time when the world was quite literally read like a book."[8] The film has a rating of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews.[9]

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."[10]

John Simon stated The Name of the Rose misfired due to its preposterously happy ending.[11]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "The Name of the Rose (1986)". UniFrance. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  2. ^ Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Scarecrow Press. p. 260.
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 24, 1986). "The Name of the Rose (1986) FILM: MEDIEVAL MYSTERY IN 'NAME OF THE ROSE'". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Der Name der Rose (1986)". BFI. Retrieved 2021-10-20.
  5. ^ a b c d e f DVD commentary by Jean-Jacques Annaud
  6. ^ "The Name of the Rose (1986)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Name of the Rose Movie Review (1986) - Roger Ebert". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  8. ^ "The Name of the Rose". Time Out. Archived from the original on August 8, 2021. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
  9. ^ The Name of the Rose, Rotten Tomatoes
  10. ^ Moss, Stephen (27 November 2011). "Umberto Eco: 'People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged'". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  11. ^ Simon, John (2005). John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001. Applause Books. p. 646.

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