The Name of the Rose

You want misery? he gives you misery—dark, drear, suppurating medieval oppressiveness; monotony? he gives you that too, lots and lots of monotony; subhuman grotesquerie and primitive superstition? not to worry: this guy didn't direct Quest for Fire for nothing. Because it's the calamitous 14th century after all, and the life of man, as we all know, is dull and brutish and dull and short and dull . . . especially dull. Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1986 adaptation of Umberto Eco's best-selling novel is faithful mainly to the book's anachronisms (of attitude rather than specific detail) though hardly to the semiotic wordplay on which its critical reputation rests. What remains is an uncinematically plodding detective tale, with Sean Connery as an Hercule Poirot of habit and cowl trying to unravel a series of murders in a monastery. Annaud's direction is unforgivably messy and murky (the underlit wall-to-wall dreariness hardly qualifies as a style), though the chaotic imagery of the finale—the monastery afire in the dense medieval gloom—does manage to convey an apocalyptic sense of closure. With F. Murray Abraham, Christian Slater, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., William Hickey, Michael Lonsdale, and Valentina Vargas.

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