The Name of the Rose
By Mike Derderian
Three Barbary macaque monkeys sitting on the ledge of a den at mount Gibraltar, contemplating the Homo sapiens passing by the colossal rock once considered to be the end of the earth. When suddenly one of the tan-faced monkeys aguishly yells out, “see no evil, haven’t you seen the homeless children of God’s land on television lately, what it is with these humans.”
“I did but remember our code brother,” said the second monkey in fear, who had a bitten off ear, “hush, talk no evil, I fear that someone would hear you.”
The simian franticly looked to and fro remembering the story of another monkey, who dared and spoke out loud. Now he is a mute begging for peanuts from passing tourists, what a dog life of a monkey!
“What evil, only a devil would act blind and mute to the atrocities that are taking place in this world. I say laugh at evil, in the face; haven’t you read Aristotle?” cried the third monkey that was leafing through an old burnt out book annoyed by their cowardice.
“Why are you afraid of being heard? According to Pierre Boulle’s ‘Planet of the Apes’, the world in the end will be ours. We’ll be the masters and they the slaves,” bellowed the somewhat megalomaniac monkey.
“We’ll have human freak shows where the whole simian nation will gaze in admiration at our naked human pyramids which coincidently is the latest graze in ten ‘funny’ ways to spell your guts to an army intelligence officer or a sadistic inquisitor like Bernardo Gui in the 1986 ‘The Name of the Rose’,” mockingly said the monkey.
Based on a novel of the same title, “Il Nome Della Rosa” by Umberto Eco, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film discuses the power of the word and the fear it generated among men and clergy alike during the ancient times when darkness prevailed among common people and light was only allowed to those able to read and write.
Set in 1327 in a Benedictine Abbey, where the greatest library in Europe is found, a colloquium on whether Jesus Christ was poor is to take place among church officials and Franciscan friars; however, before its convening a series of mysterious brutal deaths shrouded the religious atmosphere of the abbey.
Shot in Lazio, Italy, and Hessen, Germany, this religious mystery film stars Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Feodor Chaliapin Jr, Ron Perrlman, Valentina Vargas and Christian Slater as Adso of Melk, the narrator of our story, who recounts the whole incident and how his master William of Baskerville (Connery) decides to practice his analytical instincts in solving the grotesque deaths.
One would imagine that watching this analytical film would be boring, however, in addition to the eloquent English, Italian and Latin language uttered excellently by the main characters in the film, it is packed with excitement-inducing sequences of trips down the abbey’s catacombs, labyrinth like corridors of its ancient library as William and Adso strive to unveil the truth. It also presents the viewer with an opportunity to witness an unjust inquisition where William, the protagonist faces his past with his antagonist Bernardo Gui (Abraham), who offers him a choice of either condemning three people accused of witchcraft to death or condemning himself by refusing.
“The Name of the Rose” is about a repressed religious world where not only sensuality lies deep hidden under the pretext of piety but man’s mere questioning nature is regarded as profanation, introducing us to double faced characters like the abbey’s hunchback Salvatore played by Ron Perlman—who played Vincent in the 1987 “Beauty and the Beast” and currently is getting wide acclaim for his portrayal of comic strip hero Hellboy.
“The Name of the Rose” is an immense deep film that allows the person to identify himself with William’s blinded quest for forbidden knowledge; Adso’s falling in love with a mystery nymph (Vargas) and the choice he is given by his master at the end to either choose knowledge or the girl.
As life is about choices, I choose not to tell you what happens—so go and rent the film.
The film’s originality revolved around various elements; original intellectual dialogue; great cinematography that captured the dark imagery of a fourteen century abbey’s lifestyle; great acting on part of Connery, and most importantly the fear resulting from a presumed surviving copy of Aristotle’s second book “Poetics.”
And this is where you ask why would such a book cause so much fear? Well, according to Jorge De Burgos (Chaliapin Jr), who is a powerful patriarchal elderly figure at the abbey, Aristotle deployed comedy in writing this dangerous literary work.
“Laughter is a devilish whim which deforms, the lineaments of the face and makes men look like monkeys,” says the sly Jorge De Burgos to William of Baskerville, who answers vainly, “monkeys do not laugh, laughter is particular to men.”
If I have offended any Homo sapiens I do apologize for the above overture for this week’s column, it was the only alternative intro for the Name of the Rose, which is quite a controversial film that may I remind you requires parental guidance.