7 June 2019 | Coventry
Prestigious reworking of Umberto Eco's landmark novel
Only a limited number of films that I watched during my youth managed to leave an everlasting impression on me, but Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" is one of them. Even though we are 25 years later, and I've seen perhaps 15.000 films since then, I still remember practically every detail of that wondrously grim and mysterious film in which creepy monks were being killed off in a remote and petrifying old monastery. Although I tried a couple of times, I never found the courage to actually read Eco's source novel. It's just too thick, sorry. The 1986-masterpiece is urgently due for a re-watch, but instead I stumbled upon this Italian/German mini-series that allegedly was a lifelong dream-project for actor and producer John Turturro to realize. Come to think of it, it's actually quite surprising that it took more than 30 years for someone to make a new version! Seeing that Annaud's film is "only" a little over two hours long, I must assume that it threw a massive amount of Eco's book-content overboard. With 8 episodes of approximately 1 hour each, I'm sad to confess that "Il Nome Della Rosa" is too long and quite often balancing on the verge of boring. Also, I keep reading that the script differs immensely from the book, at least for what concerns the numerous sub plots surrounding the pivot murder mystery.
Turturro is great, but Sean Connery's charismatic image remains stuck in my brain as the one and only William of Baskerville; - wise Franciscan friar and Sherlock Holmes ahead-of-time. All the other, nevertheless adequate, actors can't even begin to measure themselves against the quality performances of the fantastic actors in the 1986 film, like F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman, Michael Lonsdale or William Hickey. The sole performance I rate higher comes from the fairly unknown Damian Hardung, who's portrayal of young novice Adso Von Melk is more authentic and convincing than Christian Slater's role.
Or, perhaps I just ought to stop comparing this with youth's nostalgia and simply acknowledge the multiple great aspects of this prestigious mini-series. The production values, for instance, are deeply impressive. The 14th century set-pieces, costumes and relics are astounding. Also, the history lessons processed into the screenplay are far more educational and compelling than anything you'll ever learn in school, and Tchéky Karyo has a brilliant supportive role as the megalomaniac Pope Giovanni XXII. If there's anything I firmly believe, it is that medieval Popes were exactly as deplorable and vile as him.