The Name of the Rose (Name der Rose, Der) (1986)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 16-Nov-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Jean-Jacques Annaud (Director) - In English And French
Featurette-German Documentary: The Abbey Of Crime
Featurette-Photo Video Journey With Jean-Jacques Annaud
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 126:04 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Jean-Jacques Annaud
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Sean Connery
F. Murray Abraham
Christian Slater
Elya Baskin
Michael Lonsdale
Volker Prechtel
Feodor Chaliapin Jr.
William Hickey
Michael Habeck
Urs Althaus
Valentina Vargas
Ron Perlman
Leopoldo Trieste
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“My dear Adso, we must not allow ourselves to be influenced by irrational rumors of the Antichrist, hmm? Let us instead exercise our brains and try to solve this tantalizing conundrum”
”The only evidence I see of the antichrist here is everyone’s desire to see him at work.”
  William of Baskerville (Sean Connery)

    The 1986 film The Name of the Rose has remained one of my favourite films over the years, and so it is with much pleasure that I review the Region 4 DVD release. The film is based on Umberto Eco’s internationally acclaimed best-selling novel.  By now Umberto Eco is well known internationally in literary circles, with several other bestsellers under his belt, but The Name of the Rose was his first novel and the one that immediately established his credentials not only as a great writer, but arguably as one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable writers of our age.  The novel The Name of the Rose was first published only in Italy in 1980, but word soon spread and within only a few years the book had been translated into English and many other languages, and became a deserved international bestseller.

    The story is set in a 14th century, medieval castle in Northern Italy, run by an order of devoutly religious Benedictine monks.  The 14th century provides a fascinating setting of poverty, uncertainty and the politics of the Roman Catholic Pope and various conflicting religious orders and ideals.  It is a time of religious zealots and, equally, a time of fear of the devil and pagan rituals.  Equally, it is the time of the feared papal inquisitions to maintain strict religious rule, with the confessions of presumed heretics and criminals obtained by whatever means necessary, regularly including torture, in order to persecute the heretics (justice of the day was burning the guilty at the stake) and to protect the holy order.  Finally, this is also a time of the well-meaning and peaceful monks of various orders, all quietly going about their insulated lives obsessed with daily life in a monastery, centered around strict religious observance and also the task of accumulating and preserving mankind’s knowledge in books, for the very real fear that this knowledge might be otherwise lost forever to future generations through these dark times. 

    The Benedictine castle in which our story is set is a holy sanctuary and refuge from the impoverished outside world.  The monastery is a completely self-contained hierarchical society, ruled by the Abbot, the Librarian and assistant librarian, various book transcribers and translators, cellarists, herbalists, gardeners and workers.  Daily life in this monastery is a never-changing routine based on very strict religious observance, with the day broken down into time periods, from “matins” in the morning (2:30-3:00am, when the monks get up for first church reflections), through to “compline” in the evening (6-7pm, when the monks go to bed after final church service).  Into this fascinating self-contained world enter William of Baskerville (Sean Connery), a Franciscan monk, and his young attendant novice Adso of Melk (a very young Christian Slater, here debuting in his first major film feature). We learn that William of Baskerville is one of the first of many outside monks to arrive at the monastery, which is to host a gathering of various religious orders, in order to discuss and rule on some vexing outstanding religious questions. 

    However all is not well in our docile, insular, religious society. A series of bizarre deaths strikes the monastery. Some find links between the deaths and the book of Revelation, whilst others fear the devil’s work. It is up to William of Baskerville to put aside the religious and superstitious symbolisms and rely instead on his well-renowned tools of common sense, logic and deductive reasoning in order to solve the mystery of the deaths, before the Holy Inquisitor Bernado Gui (F. Murray Abraham) arrives and begins his own inquisition, one that would no doubt secure its own verdict (just or not) based on obtaining false confessions through torture and persecution of the innocent. The real answer to the crimes and the reason behind them, as William discovers, can only be ascertained by solving a series of clues involving the pursuit of meaning - in words, symbols and ideas.

    Whilst my brief plot synopsis above probably hasn’t succeeded in capturing the excitement of this truly captivating mystery, it is an unusual film plot to describe.  If you haven’t seen it before or are completely unaware of the film or novel, I can only implore you to see the film and judge for yourself.  This is a truly fascinating whodunit and a film that will cater equally to your intellect and your heart.

    A quick word on the film adaptation of the novel by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud. Some have (inevitably) criticised this adaptation as falling somewhat short of the literary heights achieved by Umberto Eco’s complex novel.  Yet this is entirely unfair, as both Jean-Jacques Annaud and Umberto Eco himself are at pains to point out, this is simply a cinematic adaptation, based on the original novel.  It would be quite impossible to accurately and faithfully translate the entire richness and complexity of Eco’s 500-page novel into a film – and nor would you want to, as it would end up being a very boring 5 hour feature! Instead, what Annaud and his four screenwriters have done is to distil the essence of the fascinating mystery story, whilst at the same time concentrating on faithfully bringing to the screen the feeling of life as a monk in this 14th century medieval Italian monastery.  Some minor plot changes have inevitably been made to Umberto Eco’s original story (most notably of which is the ending), however all of these changes have in my opinion been made in the best interests of tightening the pacing and making the film script work cinematically (and in particular, I think the changed ending works for the better).  Not only has Annaud and his screenwriters managed to pull off a passable job of the extremely daunting task of translating Eco’s masterpiece for the screen, but they have succeeded in fine tuning and even improving the narrative of the story for the visual format. Kudos for what is I believe one of the best film adaptations of recent times. Of course, you needn’t just take my word for it; the success of this adaptation is ultimately borne out by the measure of the film’s success across a global audience. 

    Annaud completes the job of bringing the medieval world to convincing life with some great work as director of this film, brining a deft and subtle touch, yet with a great visual eye for camera angles and mood, to keep the film vibrant.  Of course, praise should also be attributed here to the work of cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, who has photographed the castle using some truly sumptuous colours and mood effects, as well as successfully overcoming several technical difficulties of lighting the indoor night-time scenes, in which the only apparent light sources in the shots are small lanterns and candles (this is discussed in detail in the audio commentary extra). Delli Colli is a veteran cinematographer who has honed his trade over more than 50 years, having worked in his time with such legendary Italian filmmakers Sergio Leone and Federico Fellini, and it shows.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    For a dated 1986 film, the DVD transfer is pleasingly rich and detailed.

    The presented aspect ratio is 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, almost the original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1.

    The image is surprisingly sharp, with detailed resolution on offer in both foreground and background images.  Grain is minimal for the well-lit exterior scenes, and only becomes noticeable (unavoidably), but still unobtrusive, in some of the indoor/low-light scenes.  There is no low level noise at all, which is just as well given that this film employs significant use of blacks and moody interiors to heighten tension.  Shadow detail could not be said to be great by any means, as there is little discernable detail at all in the darkness of many scenes (see the scenes commencing at 26:41 and at 83:30, for two examples); yet on reflection, this would almost certainly appear to be a deliberate artistic choice on the part of the director and cinematographer, again to heighten tension and mystery in the often bizarre monastery interiors, rather than a fault of the DVD transfer.

    Colours are very faithfully rendered.  Whilst the film is dominated by the colours of the interiors and the monks clothing, being fairly drab browns and grays, the cinematographer employs a palette of cold blues and dark grays for the exterior castle sequences, then contrasts them to great effect with many other odd splashes of colour, like the oranges of fires/torches. The highlight colour-wise is the diversity and richness of colour detail showcased in the close-ups of the library’s rich, multi-coloured book parchments - quite stunning.  Blacks in this transfer are rock solid – as stated, a necessary blessing, given the preponderance for moody black interiors and backgrounds to highlight the mystery unfolding. 

    Clearly, this transfer comes from what must have been a very well preserved interpositive that has been furthermore very well handled in the mastering process to DVD. No MPEG artefacts are noted. The only film-to-video artefact to note is some minor edge enhancement on occasion, but absolutely no aliasing at all on my setup.  Film artefacts are also hardly worth mentioning, being restricted to extremely fine and infrequent film flecks and brief/unobtrusive negative artefacts – this is a great source print.

    I sampled the English language subtitles for a good portion of the film and found them to be accurate, easy to read, well placed and well timed.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc, but I could not detect the layer change on my player. 

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer also scores highly.

    The default audio track is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (at 384 Kb/s) – the track I reviewed.  There is also an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mix (at 192 Kb/s).  This film was released theatrically in 1986 in Dolby Stereo A, so the new 5.1 mix is a remix for DVD release.

    Dialogue quality is excellent throughout. All lines are delivered clearly and articulately in the mix, with no noted instances of muffled or hard to decipher lines.  Dialogue is even clear throughout the hunchback’s speeches (gibberish across several languages). I did not have any problems with audio sync. 

    The music score is credited to veteran composer James Horner, who had by this point in time (1986) gained acclaim largely for his work on the scores for Star Trek II and III, Cocoon and Aliens.  Of course Mr Horner would go on to prove just what a versatile, talented and prolific film composer he could be, subsequently covering mainstream hits from Willow to Glory to the Jack Ryan films to Braveheart to Apollo 13 to Titanic. His score for The Name of the Rose is sensitive, poignant and haunting, and helps in no small way to build the appropriate mood and tension in several key scenes. A great score. The DVD transfer handles the music score very well across the range. No pops, clicks or dropouts are noted, just a small (hardly worth mentioning) amount of audio hiss in the centre speaker on some occasions.

    There is great use of the front soundstage in this audio transfer, with liberal employment of localized voices and sound effects and panning across the left, centre and front channels. Surround channels are also used intelligently, springing to life most effectively for the chanting sequences in the church, with the haunting chant tones making the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The rear channels are also used effectively and successfully for ambience and effects in many key scenes, like for example the opening sequence, where William and Adso first enter the abbey and are being escorted across the abbey grounds, with the sounds of the daily life around the abbey clearly heard panning around the channels, as the new entrants look about themselves. Yet for all the surround channel use effectiveness in many sequences, you could not say what we have here is a wholly continuous or truly immersive surround mix either, as the rear channels do fall quiet for some periods.

    The subwoofer is called upon little in this film, but does contribute when asked for help with the odd bumps and knocks and LFE.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The DVD is graced with a neat extras package, quite befitting to enhance an understanding of this thought-provoking work.

Menu

    Menus are plain static, but at least in the appropriate aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and with complimentary music underscore.

Audio Commentary: Director Jean-Jacques Annaud

    Actually, two audio commentaries are provided by the French director, one commentary in English and a separate one in French, which is very thoughtful for an international market.  It did get me wondering, however - did he sit down and do the English commentary first or the French one first? Either way, did he aim to virtually repeat himself with largely the same information when recording the second commentary, or are both commentaries completely spontaneous and therefore (possibly) covering different material??...

 

    In any event, his English commentary is a beauty. Jean-Jacques Annaud comes across as very genuine, down to earth, very passionate about this project and eager to provide as much information as possible about aspects such as his relationship with Umberto Eco and adapting the book, working with the actors (he is full of praise for the professionalism and talents of Sean Connery and full of interesting anecdotes about directing the very young Christian Slater), the set location and design, difficulties needing to be overcome with cinematography and other issues. It is a very enjoyable and interesting audio commentary.

German Documentary: “The Abbey of Crime – Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose” (43:27)

    Presented in 1.33:1 full frame and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this was a documentary recorded in 1986 for German TV, as a promotion for the original German release of the film. The documentary comes with selectable English subtitles. The documentary is quite interesting in parts, offering interesting insights such as interview snippets with Umberto Eco in which he gives his views on how he feels about someone else adapting his material, as well as behind-the-scenes footage, cast and crew interview segments and a discussion on location shooting and set design. Unfortunately though, a good portion of this documentary reverts to a simple walk-through of the story as a means of introducing the film fresh to the audience as a promotional vehicle. Slightly off-putting also in this documentary is the fact that the English-speaking actors are talked-over the top by the German narrator, translating the spoken word to German, and then you have to read the English-language subtitles to translate the dialogue back in to English again! This gives you head-spins after a while.

     On balance though, this is a very worthwhile inclusion as an extra on the DVD, as it does provide some very good insight into the context and behind-the-scenes, in amongst the promotion. The quality of this extra is acceptable, although it comes from a dated source material, and is quite grainy in parts, with colours not overly vibrant.

Featurette: “Photo Video Journal with Jean-Jacques Annaud” (16:06)

    Presented 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this is a newly recorded great little relaxed interview with the director, partly reviewing some scenes from the film, partly going through some production stills, all as prompters for the director to provide various anecdotes about aspects such as the filming, working with the actors, set design, the initial audience/box office reaction to the film and then slowly coming to terms with the sleeper success of the film over the years. Excellent quality video and audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

    Presented 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this is a nice trailer, giving a brief yet enticing overview and introduction to the film. Good quality video and audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD has recently been released worldwide.  Both the Region 2 and Region 1 versions of the disc are identical to our Region 4 release.

 

    Interestingly though, Germany appears to have received two different releases of the DVD, the first being the same single disc version as released elsewhere around the world, but also a separate “2-Disc Special Edition”. The first disc in this 2-disc set is identical to the other Region releases, whilst the second disc contains one extra only; a 117 minute documentary. It is unclear what language this new documentary is recorded in (presumably German) and more importantly it is also unclear whether or not this new documentary includes English subtitles. Hmmm, very intriguing, however unless you speak German and/or want to take the big risk that English subtitles have been included, I would ignore this 2-Disc SE German release and stick to our Region 4 product.

 

    If anyone reading this review does have the German 2-Disc SE, please post me a comment to confirm the details of the extra documentary. For now, I am going to put this one down as being equal across regions (as far as English-speaking DVD buyers are concerned).

Adendum 20 November 2004:Refer reader comments posted below. It is not only the German release, but there are a couple of other different European Region 2 releases that also incorporate this 2-disc SE. Of these, the Dutch Region 2 version appears to be the version of choice, as it does indeed include English Language subtitles (along with several other language subtitles) for the second disc 117minute documentary. A reader advises that this second disc documentary - actually it is broken down into 2 documentaries, adding up to 117minutes - is a quite comprehensive analysis of all elements of the production, hosted by the director himself, and so it is very well worthwhile seeing for fans of this film. I have now amended the listing to confirm that Region 2 Dutch is the preferred version.

Summary

    The Name of the Rose is French director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film adaptation of Umberto Eco’s widely acclaimed bestselling novel.  Despite the pitfalls of trying to adapt such a much-loved work for the screen, and the inevitable changes needed to be made to the story for cinematic purposes, this is in my view one of the very best film adaptations of recent times, succeeding in actually improving the story narrative for the screen. What we have here is a historically accurate and well-constructed whodunit mystery set in the fascinating period and setting of a 14th century medieval Benedictine monastery. Sterling acting performances from Sean Connery, Christian Slater and F. Murray Abraham provide further weight to this work. This is one of my favourite films. It remains a much underrated, yet powerful film that should appeal equally to your intellect and your heart.

    The DVD release is graced with great video and audio transfers and a worthwhile extras package to aid an appreciation of the production.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-2900, using Component output
DisplayNEC 125cm Widescreen Plasma. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-1068 Pre-amp/Processor. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationElektra Theatre 150 Watts x 6 channel Power Amplifier
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Dutch R2 - REPLY POSTED
Disc 2 Documentary - REPLY POSTED
Not dissapointed -
French commentary - English subtitles? - REPLY POSTED
James Horner correction - REPLY POSTED