Name of the Rose, The (1986)

The Name of the Rose (1986), directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.

Year 1327, a bleak monastery in the wintry mountains of northern Italy. A convocation of monks is assembling for a politically charged theological debate. Inconveniently, the site has a series of strange and inexplicable deaths. Is it the Devil? Skeptical Brother William of Baskerville doesn't think so, but proving murder requires a dangerous penetration into secrets and conspiracies.

It's an odd combination of styles: a realistic depiction of the times (in the dirty and brutal mode) mixed with the type of murder sleuthing we see in fantasies like Poirot or Marple. We even have Cadfael-level medieval forensics.

The juxtaposition mirrors the story itself: the cruel grotty background is a "no laughing" zone, just as the blind Venerable Jorge would have it, but the detection is done with humor and winking: William of Baskerville combines William of Ockham with Sherlock Holmes. The center of the secret is the sole remaining copy of an ancient text on the use of comedy.

The quick ending where the peasants rise up against the Inquisitor seems implausible, but very convenient for the plot. I haven't read the book (few have, it is said) so can't comment on the adaptation.

The film did poorly in the US but was much more popular in Europe.

The Blu-ray has a heartfelt commentary track by the director; he was passionate about the project:

James Horner score. Brief nudity and passion, some butchery of animals and burnings at the stake.

Available on Blu-ray.