The Name of the Rose


Monk double feature! At first glance, The Name of the Rose and Into Great Silence couldn’t be any more different — one is a plotless meditation on stillness and solitude, the other an overstuffed megaproduction that bursts at the seams with narrative twists and gleeful cliches. One movie is about the absence of language, the other one revels in linguistic jokes and a cornucopia of literary allusions high and low. But by approaching their common subject from very different points of view, the two films illuminate (ha!) each other.

All things considered, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s adaptation of Umberto Eco‘s bestseller has held up well. Eco’s intellectual games are filtered through Annaud’s lurid lens, by the way of German producer Bernd Eichinger‘s taste for the blockbuster: Eco dressed up semiotic theories with the trimmings of popular entertainment, and in Annaud/Eichinger’s hands, the erudition falls by the wayside in favor of freakish brothers (witness Ron Perlman ham it up as hunchback heretic) and forbidden sex.

It speaks for Eco’s talents as storyteller that even when you rid his book of the lengthy debates about medieval scholarship, it’s still a rip roaring good story, overloaded with literary references (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jorge Luis Borges are the most obvious ones), men who speak “all languages and no language” for him to better hide his polylingual puns, and a tightly plotted story that hinges on all the tropes of monkhood: secret libraries, blind fathers, flagellation, mad heretics, ancient secrets, repressed homosexuality, evil inquisitors, damsels burning at the stake. The Name of the Rose is bursting with signifiers, pointing everywhere at once, while Into Great Silence makes a strong effort not to point anywhere at all, to just be here now. Both movies are using the monastic life for their own ulterior motives; I’d argue that this one does it somewhat more successfully. (The interiors of The Name of the Rose were shot at Kloster Eberbach, a few minutes from where I grew up.)

Der Name der Rose. Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1986. ****


  1. Should’ve known they had Christian Slater’s controversial sex scene with Valentina Vargas on YouTube:

  2. Jean-Jacques Annaud is one of the most original and keen french director in the last 30 years. L’ amant, Seven Years in Tibet,are just some of his wide production.
    The work of Jean-Jacques Annaud moves in the socio-political, historical and theoretical contexts. His Film is developed in the understanding of a culture, or historic time. The Cinema isn’t only a resource of enternainment. It’s a principle of research and analysis of a specific society. It manifests a specific preoccupation or problem and show to the public the analysis socio-political and cultural. French cinema has answered to such challenge since the beginning of the 50′. Francois Trufaut was a social director. We can understand the complexity of the french middle class analysing each one of his extensive production. Movies like Jules et Jim (1962), it is not just the story of the relationship of 2 men and 1 woman. It’s the story of brotherhood of two friends (French, and German), sharing their lives each other and overcoming the difference of nationalities, even when they fight the same battlefield fighting with their due countries. Trufaut teaches us the value of the true friendship beyond our nationalism or ideology. His Film “The 400 blows” (1959)lead us to the controversy of the French Educative system, the authoritarism, not just in the school, rather in the gaullist french system.
    The Cinema is a powerful tool of understanding and dialogue of the people. It’s the mirror where the society watch their problems, dreams and hope.


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