The Name of the Rose (original title, Der Name der Rose) is a 1986 film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, based on the book of the same name by Umberto Eco. Sean Connery is the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and Christian Slater is his apprentice Adso of Melk, who are called upon to solve a deadly mystery in a medieval abbey.
Director Jean-Jacques Annaud once told Umberto Eco that he was convinced the book was written for only one person to direct, that is to say himself. He felt personally intrigued by the project, among other things because of a life-long fascination with medieval churches and a great familiarity with Latin and Greek.
Annaud spent four years preparing the film, traveling throughout the United States and Europe, searching for the perfect multiethnic cast with interesting and distinctive faces. He resisted suggestions to cast Sean Connery for the part of William because he felt that the character, who was already an amalgam of Sherlock Holmes and William of Occam, would become too overwhelming with "007" added. Later, after Annaud failed to find another actor he liked for the part, he was won over by Connery's reading, but Eco was dismayed by the casting choice and Columbia Pictures pulled out, as Connery's career was then in a slump. Christian Slater was cast through a large-scale audition of teenage boys. For the wordless scene in which the Girl seduces Adso, Annaud allowed Valentina Vargas to lead the scene without his direction. Annaud did not explain to Slater what she would be doing in order to elicit a more authentic performance from the actors.
The exterior and some of the interiors of the monastery seen in the film were constructed as a replica on a hilltop outside Rome, and ended up being the biggest exterior set built in Europe since Cleopatra. Many of the interiors were shot at Eberbach Abbey, Germany. Most props, including period illuminated manuscripts, were produced specifically for the film.
The Name of the Rose is the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327, an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory. First published in Italian in 1980 under the title Il nome della rosa, it appeared in English in 1983, translated by William Weaver.
Much attention has been paid to the mystery of what the title of the novel refers to. In fact, Eco has stated that his intention was to find a "totally neutral title". In one version of the story, when he had finished writing the novel, Eco hurriedly suggested some ten names for it and asked a few of his friends to choose one. They chose The Name of the Rose. In another version of the story, Eco had wanted the neutral title Adso of Melk, but that was vetoed by his publisher, and then the title The Name of the Rose "came to me virtually by chance". Eco wrote that he liked this title "because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left."
The book's last line, "Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus" translates literally as "Yesterday's rose endures in its name, we hold empty names". The general sense, as Eco pointed out, was that from the beauty of the past, now disappeared, we hold only the name. In this novel, the lost "rose" could be seen as Aristotle's book on comedy (now forever lost), the exquisite library now destroyed, or the beautiful peasant girl now dead. We only know them by the description Adso provides us — we only have the name of the book on comedy, not its contents. As Adso points out at the end of the fifth day, he does not even know the name of the peasant girl to lament her. Does this mean she does not endure at all?
Perhaps this is a deliberate mis-translation. This quote has also been translated as "Yesterday's Rome stands only in name, we hold only empty names". This line is a verse by twelfth century monk Bernard of Cluny (also known as Bernard of Morlaix). Medieval manuscripts of this line are not in agreement; Eco quotes one Medieval variant verbatim, but Eco was not aware at the time of the text more commonly printed in modern editions, in which the reference is to Rome (Roma), not to a rose (rosa). The alternative text, with its context, runs: Nunc ubi Regulus aut ubi Romulus aut ubi Remus? / Stat Roma pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus. This translates as "Now where is Regulus, or Romulus, or Remus? / Yesterday's Rome stands only in name, we hold empty names".
More on The Name of the Rose here.
More on Umberto Eco here.
SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco 'We Like Lists Because We Don't Want to Die'
Umberto Eco, The Art of Fiction No. 197 in The Paris Review.