A Murder of Monks
It seems to me that those who rate Jean-Jacques AnnaudÂ’s "The Name of the Rose" highly are those who loved Umberto Eco's dark novel on which it was adapted from. And that to me makes perfect sense especially when you read opinions on the movie which mention they love the historical authenticity of it and are fascinated by the cold monastery and the division between monks. It all seems to me that they had read the book and had the deeper understanding of the movie that to see it brought to life was a joy.
Unfortunately I've never read the book and so come to watch "The Name of the Rose" because I knew it starred Sean Connery and was a thriller. And to be fair it looks absolutely great, the buildings are brilliant, the characters are interesting and the acting through out is top notch in fact visually it looks epic. But it didn't grab me, I just found the storyline dull and heavy going with elements which made little sense and the knock on effect of that is it becomes like an older Sherlock Holmes movie, which with a character William of Baskerville who says at least once "It's Elementary" makes me think it was intentional.
Arriving at a monastery in Italy for an assembly to discuss church wealth former inquisitor William of Baskerville (Sean Connery - Highlander) and his young trainee Ads of Milk (Christian Slater - Hollow Man II) become aware of a recent death which the Abbot (Michael Lonsdale) requests William to look into. Whilst initially thinking it was suicide a second death followed by a third leads William to suspect there are dark secrets within the monastery walls with many of the monks thinking the deaths are a sign of the apocalypse. To make matters more complicated The Abbot summons inquisitor Bernardo Guy (F. Murray Abraham) who takes over the investigation and immediately points his finger at a group of people who he proclaims guilty of heresy leading to a clash between him and William.
So here is the thing, if within the opening 10 minutes "The Name of the Rose" hasn't got your attention you are going to be in for a long 130 minutes. The reason being is that whilst we have what is essentially a Sherlock Holmes style murder mystery if the atmosphere and look of the Italian monastery with its various ugly looking monks and dark corners doesn't fascinate you then nothing in this movie will. I am not saying the movie is just about the strange look of this medieval dwelling and its inhabitants but it is a big part of it, you need to be curious about the various strange monks and their individual quirkiness to fully get into it. And as I said if it doesn't grab you then what you have left is a medieval murder mystery which doffs its cap to Sherlock Holmes.
Now as mentioned earlier I am sure to fully appreciate "The Name of the Rose" you will have needed to read the novel so that you can marvel at how authentic it feels. But even if you haven't read the book there is still elements to marvel out and in many ways Annaud has created such an authentic look moving that it has the visual look of an epic. From the opening as we follow William and Ads through the snowy fields to the monastery which looms over them, a cold building which looks dirty it is visually powerful. And the various less the photogenic actors who Annaud collected to play the quirky monks also add that look of detail about it. Basically it has the look of a movie where Annaud has gone over every detail to make it as perfect looking as possible and he succeeds.
He also succeeds in the casting because in a movie full of quirky looking monks with what are strange but I assume authentic hairstyles we have a touch of normality in Sean Connery and Christian Slater. In a way their performances end up the most normal thing about the movie almost bridging the gap between being too authentic and being easy to watch for modern audiences.
What this all boils down to is that I can understand why there are many who think "The Name of the Rose" is a masterpiece and visually it has the look. But for me it just didn't get me gripped and so it became a bit dull and laborious more focused on an authentic look than on involving the audience in solving the murder of monks.