When they decided to turn Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose into a film, they pretty much managed to push all of my movie-going buttons. Were I given millions of dollars and a producer’s job, I could not ask for a better star, setting, genre, and plot.
Start with the location: I can be a sucker for settings. Place any movie — no matter how mediocre in other respects — in a cool-looking spaceship, or at a polar research lab, or in a submarine, and I’ll drop the remote long enough to watch, at least for a few minutes. But until Rose came along in 1986, I would not have put a 13th-century Italian monastery into that category.
Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, filming near Rome and in West Germany, cranks up the atmospherics of Rose with catacombs (real), labyrinths (fake), cemeteries, and … what exactly is in that imposing tower (pictured below left), I wonder?
Into this Dark Ages milieu comes one of my favorite movie stars, Sean Connery. When abbey denizens begin turning up dead, Connery’s monk is forced into the role of Sherlock Holmes, aided by his young protégé (Christian Slater in his first role). Ancient books — thousands of them — play a pivotal role in the story.
So now I have everything I could ask for: Connery, a delicious mystery, a focus on rare books and, above all, one really, really cool setting. Grade: A-
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud Cast: Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Lonsdale, Christian Slater, Valentina Vargas Release: 1986
Watch Trailer (click here)
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