Based on Umberto Eco's best-selling novel. Sean Connery is a monk-turned-detective who, together with his novice, Christian Slater, tries desperately to unravel the mystery of the Abbey's murders. Monks are being killed in all manner of ways, and as Brother Sean's investigations get underway, more is revealed to the audience of the darker side of Italian monastic life at the beginning of the 14th Century. It is a wonderfully observed film with stunning cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli, and there's some hideously grotesque monks.
Jean-Jacques Annaud's The Name of the Rose
is a flawed attempt to adapt Umberto Eco's highly convoluted medieval bestseller for the screen, necessarily excising much of the esoterica that made the book so compelling. Still, what's left is a riveting whodunit set in a grimly and grimily realistic 14th-century Benedictine monastery populated by a parade of grotesque characters, all of whom spend their time lurking in dark places or scuttling, half-unseen, in the omnipresent gloom. A series of mysterious and gruesome deaths are somehow tied up with the unwelcome attention of the Inquisition, sent to root out suspected heretical behavior among the monastic scribes whose lives are dedicated to transcribing ancient manuscripts for their famous library, access to which is prevented by an ingenious maze-like layout.
Enter Sean Connery as investigator-monk William of Baskerville (the Sherlock Holmes connection made explicit in his name) and his naive young assistant Adso (a youthful Christian Slater). The Grand Inquisitor Bernado Gui (F. Murray Abraham) suspects devilry; but William and Adso, using Holmesian forensic techniques, uncover a much more human cause: the secrets of the library are being protected at a terrible cost. A fine international cast and the splendidly evocative location compensate for a screenplay that struggles to present Eco's multifaceted story even partially intact; Annaud's idiosyncratic direction complements the sinister, unsettling aura of the tale ideally. --Mark Walker
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