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Customer Review

111 of 118 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Movie based on a Wonderful Book, June 19, 2005
This review is from: The Name of the Rose (DVD)
I never saw this film in the theatre. I saw it on TV many years ago and was enchanted with the medieval setting. I just recently got the DVD when I remembered the movie due to discussion of the book on an internet board I post on.

All I can say is that I am in awe of the work done by the director in bringing the book to the screen. The visuals alone express exactly the sense and the setting that Eco took pages and pages of info dump to allude to.

The size of the whole complex with small poorly clad men scuttling over it at the mercy of the weather accurately places man (in the understanding of the time) between cruel and capricious nature (i.e.: godlessness) and being dwarfed by the immense buildings dedicated to god, which represent his power and importance in the world, and the puny stature of man.

The dark interiors, lit only by fire highlight the fear, superstition and lack of education and outside contact that the average 'simple' person had. It made real the poverty and the terror and the precarious hold on life the people had, and how they would grasp at anything that promised safety and salvation. How it was so easy to believe in demons, and witches and other physical manifestations of their hard life. The strange look of the monks also represents the difficulty of surviving unscathed by disease, or accident.

At the ending of the medieval period the church had grown into a fat, rich, bloated institution more interested in temporal matters, and internal minutia (angels dancing on the head of a pin) than on acting as shepherds to god's flock.

The movie shows the Benedictine monks, the caretakers of the monastery and local flock, as those who started with a good heart, yet who uphold the status quo in fear rather than love. Because the times have changed, the flock's needs have multiplied, and the monks have not, they end up going through the motions of the religious life during the day, with venality creeping in during the dark hours: Greed, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, Acquisitiveness, and Selfishness.

Rather than copy and disburse books to uplift the darkness they hide them away, and prevent the spread of learning; keeping the knowledge as secret treasure for the select within the monastery. There are gradations of the select within the walls, leaving the monks in competition to become 'more select', rather than focusing on the needs of their flock, and god's work. All they do is dump refuse through their sewer and make the people scramble like animals to survive.

This is the setting upon which the future role of the church and god's place in man's affairs is to be debated, in the guise of the question `was Jesus poor? ` Where the regular church people are too afraid of change, and being branded heretics, yet no longer can really believe in the simple answers and rituals of the past, or rely on their superiors for good guidance.

The papal delegation, the Dominicans, are rich, fat, and far above the ordinary life of the monks or the 'simple' peasants. They do not wish to give up the wealth, the life of luxury, the ability to satisfy every personal whim, and the temporal power over kings, states, and the simple peasants that the current state of the church bestows on them. Within their ranks is an Inquisitor, the judge, and jury they use to keep any who question them in line, with threats of torture, horrible death, and damnation. They use the Inquisitor to stamp out those who have drunk at the deadly cup of ancient knowledge and who are beginning to question and think for themselves.

The Franciscans are the group who represent change, the desire to be free of the trappings of the past, who want to minister to the needs of the people both physical and spiritual and leave power and wealth to Caesar. They are concerned about the good and bad of the knowledge that can lead one to sin, but they are not all the same and not all want the books hidden or destroyed. Some believe that using the reason god gave them, they will find more to worship the creator for. Though their oldest member, Ubertino shows that they come from the same past as the Benedictines.

The deaths and murders in the monastery are the outward manifestation of unease, sin, and the breakdown of real belief in the past solutions the church is preaching. Enter William of Baskerville, and his young novice, who represent the coming of the renaissance, the coming of reason, knowledge and enlightenment. They move within the rhythms of the monastery, while staying true to their own beliefs. They try to set the wrongs to right, and move the Benedictines to open their library and disburse the knowledge they hoard, while winning the dispute with the papal legation, and ultimately staying alive. In some they are successful, and in some they are not - much like life.

I can't give the movie 5 stars, because too little time and context was set up so that the viewer who had not read the book would understand what the debate stood for, and what the Greek book stood for. Without those clues, the movie seems a lot of to-do about some really trivial matters, yet they are still issues we are struggling with today.

This is a movie that you can watch over and over, and pick up and revel in all the details, as well as the wonderful performances. There are some who think Gui, and Salvatore are over the top, but in fact they are needed as they show real human passion escaping from the control of a repressed setting. The sex scene is also needed for the story and really rather beautiful.

The movie actually led me to read the book, and I think that those who complain about the movie being different don't understand that the movie must be visual, and that what they think is lacking in the story is mostly presented in the visuals. I agree with the director who said The Name of The Rose is a bestseller which most who purchase don't read, and that if you can read and understand the book, you can also understand and appreciate the movie. The quibble about the ending is really a matter of your preference for the tone, hopeful, or not.

The director's commentary and the documentary on the making of the movie are very good, as is the director's photo tour. The music, sets, lighting, and cinematography are magnificent.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 8, 2014 1:41:45 PM PDT
I just kinda enjoyed the fact that the role of the "Executioner" in the movie was played by Al Capone.

Posted on Nov 10, 2015 4:02:52 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2015 4:05:22 AM PST
I guess if you're ignorant enough to believe the comic book history that it ever was the case that monks and theologians debated angels dancing on the head of a pin, you're capable of obliviousness to the stupidity, bigotry, and ridiculous caricatures this film presents as Church history.
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