After watching a number of films I have begun to wonder why people take refuge in churches? They don’t seem like overly safe places to me as there has been many a celluloid murder than happened there.
The year is 1327 and a murder happens at the Benedictine Abbey. This convinces the monks there that it is a sure sign that the world is coming to an end. A case of rather inconvenient timing as the Abbey is set to host a council on whether the Franciscan Order should rid itself of its wealth or not. To alleviate any worries about the death, respected monk William of Baskerville (Sean Connery – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October) is called in to investigate.
As William comes closer to the truth more deaths occur. There seems to be a secret that the Abbey wants kept hidden. William and his assistant/novice (Christian Slater – Interview with the Vampire, True Romance) have to race to uncover the true killer before an innocent is proclaimed the guilty party and stopping the Holy Inquisitor Bernardo Gui (F. Murray Abraham – Scarface, Finding Forrester) from punishing all the reputed satanists and heretics he can get a hand on.
What the film shows very clearly to the viewer is how in these times the church had a firm grip on the population. It had the mandate or right to punish how it saw fit. That kind of power corrupts – even the holy. French director Jean-Jacques Annaud (Enemy at the Gates, Seven Years in Tibet) depicts this time before the Reformation quite well. The Name of the Rose shows how wide the divisions between classes were and how hard a life it was if you were not in the church or were wealthy.
Realism is throughout. The Abbey is portrayed as a dark and damp (generally frightening) place. A place that none of us would like to ever find ourselves. The perfect setting for bloody murders, I think.
The tempo of the film is something that a “modern” viewer might have trouble getting used to. While it doesn’t plod along, for a murder mystery it does travel its path quite slowly. There is no hurry to unveil the secrets. Wisely this was done to allow many of the complex issues of the story (suppression of individuality, class separation, suppression of the written word, etc) to germinate naturally and allowing the viewer time to take them in.
A film that many a critic did not appreciate when it came out in the 80s, but I think it deserves another look at. A nice murder mystery with some good performances (Connery and F. Murray Abraham).
-The Abbey of Crime: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose
-The Photo Video Journey