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The Name of the Rose (original title, Der Name der Rose) is a German-French-Italian 1986 film, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the book of the same name by Umberto Eco. Sean Connery is the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and Christian Slater is his apprentice Adso of Melkmarker, who are called upon to solve a deadly mystery in a Medieval abbey.


Franciscan monk William of Baskerville and his novice Adso of Melkmarker (narrating as an old man) arrive at a Benedictine abbey where a mysterious death has occurred ahead of an important Church conference. William, known for his deductive and analytic mind, confronts the worried Abbot and gains permission to investigate the death – a young illuminator appears to have committed suicide. Over the next few days, several other bizarre deaths occur, and the two discover that not everything is what it seems in the abbey.

The two also make the acquaintance of Salvatore (played by Ron Perlman), a demented hunchback who spews forth gibberish in various languages, and his handler and protector, Remigio da Varagine (Helmut Qualtinger) who, as events prove, also has a shady past. William quickly deduces that Salvatore had once been a member of a heretical sect and infers that Remigio likewise had been involved. He suspects that they may have been involved in the killings. Meanwhile, Adso encounters a beautiful semi-feral peasant girl who has apparently sneaked into the abbey to trade sexual favors for food; she seduces him, and he falls in love with her.

William of Baskerville and his apprentice Adso of Melk
Investigating and keen to head off accusations of demonic possession the protagonists discover and explore a labyrinthine medieval library, constructed on multiple levels in the abbey's forbidden principal tower. It becomes clear that the only remaining copy of Aristotle's Second Book of Poetics is somehow related to the deaths. William deduces that all of those who died under mysterious circumstances had read the book.

His investigations are curtailed by the arrival of Bernardo Gui of the Inquisition, summoned for the conference and keen to prosecute those he deems responsible for the deaths. The two men clashed in the past and the zealous inquisitor has no time for theories outside his own. Salvatore and the girl are found fighting over a black cockerel while in the presence of a black cat. Gui presents this as irrefutable proof that they are in league with Satan and tortures Salvatore into confessing. Salvatore, Remigio, and the girl are dragged before a kangaroo court tribunal where Gui intimidates the Abbot into concurring with his judgment of heresy. But William, also "invited" by Gui to serve on the panel of judges, refuses to confirm the accusations of murder. Gui resorts to extracting a confession from Remigio by the threat of torture, and clearly plans to take care of William for good, later.

When another monk succumbs like the others, William and Adso ascend the forbidden library, and come face to face with the Venerable Jorge (Feodor Chaliapin, Jr.), the most ancient denizen of the abbey, with the book, which describes comedy and how it may be used to teach. Believing laughter and jocularity to be instruments of the Devil, Jorge has poisoned the pages to stop the spread of what he considers dangerous ideas: those reading it would ingest the poison as they licked their fingers to aid in turning pages. Confronted, Jorge throws over a candle, starting a blaze that quickly engulfs the library. William insists that Adso flee, as he manages to collect an inadequate armload of invaluable books to save; the volume of Poetics, Jorge, and the rest of the library are lost.

Meanwhile, Salvatore and Remigio have been burned at the stake, and the girl is soon to follow, when the local peasants take advantage of the chaos of the library fire to turn on Gui and free her. Gui attempts to flee but they throw his wagon off a cliff, to his death. William and Adso later take their leave. A much older Adso reflects in his closing narration that he never regretted his decision to continue on with William, and that the girl was the only Earthly love of his life, yet he never learned her name.


(in credits order)


Director Jean-Jacques Annaud once told Umberto Eco that he was convinced the book was written for only one person to direct, that is to say himself. He felt personally intrigued by the project, among other things because of a life-long fascination with medieval churches and a great familiarity with Latin and Greek.

Annaud spent four years preparing the film, traveling throughout the United States and Europe, searching for the perfect multiethnic cast with interesting and distinctive faces. He resisted suggestions to cast Sean Connery for the part of William because he felt that the character, who was already an amalgam of Sherlock Holmes and William of Occam, would become too overwhelming with "007" added. Later, after Annaud failed to find another actor he liked for the part, he was won over by Connery's reading, but Eco was dismayed by the casting choice and Columbia Pictures pulled out, as Connery's career was then in a slump. Christian Slater was cast through a large-scale audition of teenage boys. For the wordless scene in which the Girl seduces Adso, Annaud did not explain to Slater what Valentina Vargas would be doing, to elicit a more authentic performance from him.

The exterior and some of the interiors of the monastery seen in the film were constructed as a replica on a hilltop outside Rome, and ended up being the biggest exterior set built in Europe since Cleopatra. Many of the interiors were shot at Eberbach Abbeymarker, Germany. Most props, including period illuminated manuscripts, were produced specifically for the film.


The film did poorly at the box office in the United States, playing at only 176 theatres and grossing only $7.2 million in return on a $17 million budget. It received generally negative reviews upon its release, from American and Italian critics. It was popular in many parts of Europe, however, with a worldwide gross of over $77 million.


  • The film was awarded the César for best foreign film.
  • The film was awarded two BAFTAs. Sean Connery for best actor, and Hasso von Hugo won Best Make Up Artist.

Major changes from the book

  • The film has a simpler plot, with more action in it.

  • In the book, Adso of Melk is a Benedictine novice, whereas in the movie he is a Franciscan.

  • A lengthy dream sequence near the end (Terce of the sixth day) dreamt by Adso is non-existent in the film. It is mostly based, William tells Adso, on the Coena Cypriani, which illustrates a comedic assembly of many biblical characters. There are several versions, one of which is found bound together with Aristotle's Poetics, and its popularity shows how comedy attracts the attention of the young. Adso was very familiar with this text; Jorge was disgusted by it.

  • In the book, the Abbot explicitly assigns William as an investigator and orders everyone to help him if he requests something. He also explicitly tells that entering the aedificium is forbidden in the evenings.

  • A major character (and suspect) from the book is omitted in the film adaptation: Benno of Uppsala, who even joins William and Adso for a short period of their investigation. He runs into the library as the abbey burns, presumably dying when the floor collapses.

  • The Abbot is the sixth victim in the book, whereas in the film he just stops appearing.

  • A lot of dialogue regarding religion and comedy, as well as much discussion by the main characters about the current time period and the heretics is cut drastically down.

  • Jorge's motivation is reduced by cutting out the history of the Abbey librarians, who traditionally later become the Abbots. This takes with it the history of Jorge being selected for that position over a man ten years his senior (Alinardo of Grottaferrata, found in the book but not the film), and Jorge's subsequent arrangements of the current Abbot, Librarian, and Assistant as puppets. The sermon that Jorge gives on the apocalypse and the ruin of the Abbey because of its pursuit for knowledge is reduced to an exclamation during the panic following Malachi's death.

  • The most notable of changes is the ending: the film has Remigio and Salvatore being burnt at the stake by Bernardo Gui, who is killed by peasants before being able to burn The Girl. In the book, Gui does not die, and he takes Remigio, The Girl and Salvatore with him and his escorts. Remigio is taken to Avignon, the seat of the pope, for a final trial before he is burnt. William tells Adso that Gui will burn The Girl on the way, and that Salvatore, who is supposedly forgiven, may or may not be burnt as well.

  • The book's last line, translates literally as "Yesterday's rose endures in its name, we hold empty names". The general sense, as Eco pointed out, was that from the beauty of the past, now disappeared, we hold only names. For the novel the identity of the lost "rose" could be interpreted several ways, such as Aristotle's lost book, the destroyed library, or the girl - but the film focuses on the last option in its own closing line.

See also


  1. DVD commentary
  2. Box Office Mojo entry
  3. "Postscript to the Name of the Rose", printed in The Name of the Rose (Harcourt, Inc., 1984), p. 506.

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