The Name Of The Rose

The Name Of The Rose (1986)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Photo Video Journey, Trailer

"The Name Of The Rose" is a dark murder mystery set in a monastery during the 14th century. It is a film of European origin and thus, hardly surprising, it has a very different flair that Hollywood productions, providing it with a gritty, edgy atmosphere and characters that appear utterly authentic.

The story revolves around William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) and his young apprentice Adso (Christian Slater) as they visit a North-Italian monastery for a gathering and discussion of theological topics. But the event is overshadowed by the death of one of the monastery’s youngest brothers. With no other explanation immediately at hand, everyone believes it was the doing of the Devil – everyone but William, that is. To avoid calling in the inquisitor, William decides to solve the mystery of the death by himself, but before he can make his first steps another one of the brethren dies – this time leaving clear evidence of murder. In his investigations William soon learns that the monastery seems to be shrouded in a dark secret that no ones wants to admit to, as more bodies pile up. Unwilling to believe William’s rational deductions, the abbot is eventually calling the inquisitor Bernardo Gui (F. Murray Abraham) to find the one ridden by the devil, committing these murders, and put an end to the mystery.

But Baskerville and Gui have a history, as the two collided vehemently when Baskerville opposed the inquisitor’s fanatic unfounded views. And once again, Baskerville is in complete disagreement with the inquisitor’s *findings." Will he be able to completely solve the murders before the inquisition arbitrarily burns someone innocent at the stake?

Like a good Sherlock Holmes story, "The Name Of The Rose" is filled with little clues and wonderful deductions that are not immediately evident but reveal themselves as the plot progresses. It makes "The Name Of The Rose" a great guess-along film as the mystery slowly unravels. The highlight of the film is, of course, the entrance of the inquisitor, masterfully played by F. Murray Abraham, whose fanatic ignorance must make every thinking man sick. Without even the slightest grasp on reality, his presence increases the suspense of the film immensely as time is running out. Sean Connery gives a suave performance as William of Baskerville and is wonderful to watch, as ever, as he pieces together the puzzle under the admiring eyes of his apprentice – a 16-year old Christian Slater.

Long overdue for a DVD release, Warner Home Video is presenting "The Name Of The Rose" in its original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> format on this release in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The image is clean and mostly without grain. The movie’s cinematography is deliberately dark with incredibly deep shadows to heighten the brooding atmosphere of the monastery and the lack of most artificial lighting in the 14th century. The DVD restores that atmosphere perfectly as we see gaping black hallways and countless dark nooks in each of which the answer to the mystery – or death – could await. The DVD renders these blacks absolutely solid and without problems. The level of detail in the transfer is good, though some limitations of the original film stock used are evident in certain shots. No edge-enhancement is visible and the compression has been handled carefully as not to introduce distracting artifacts.

The DVD contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track that is making good use of the surround channels. Not aggressive by any means, the surround field is mostly used for ambient effects to give scope and size to the images and locations, and to heighten the suspense level ever so slightly with various subtle effects. Dialogues are very clear and are never drowned out. "The Name Of The Rose" features a score by James Horner that perfectly suits the film’s purpose and oftentimes appears almost understated but extremely effective.

Warner has also added a few extras to this DVD release, including a <$commentary,commentary track> by director Jean-Jacques Annaud, in which he goes into great detail about the production of the film ,as well as some historical aspects of the story. Annaud is very conversational in his tone, which adds to the commentary, making it a very exciting and informative excurse into the realms of making this particular movie.

The <$commentary,commentary track> is nicely complemented by a "Photo Video Journey," a featurette in which Annaud takes various behind-the-scenes photos from the production of the movie and tells the stories surrounding these moments. Once again, Annauds conversational manner makes this a great addition as he recalls some great moments and memories.

The promo featurette "The Abbey Of Crime" is a documentary that was produced originally to promote the film when it launched in theaters. It does contain some insight but is for the most part, really just a promo reel that is supposed to get you excited to see the film – which it does, I admit.

I’ve always considered "The Name Of The Rose" a very underappreciated film that never seems to have found its audience. Perhaps its because of the slow, deliberate way the story builds, maybe it is because especially US-audiences have no direct affinity to a 14th century culture – though they should be more than familiar with religious fanatics. All I can do is tell you that this is a film that is well worth exploring, and the pay-off as the mystery comes to a conclusion is more than making up for the movie’s slow exposition. Furthermore, Warner Home Video has now turned this film into a great-looking DVD with some great extras. Highly recommended viewing!