I recorded the whole of the recent BBC series of The Name of the Rose and was hoping to watch every episode before commenting here. I read the book back in the late 1980s – presumably soon after it first appeared – and loved the twisty plot, lush descriptions and the central characters of Brother William and his young and rather naïve assistant Adso.
I also watched the Sean Connery/Christian Slater film a few years later and remember being slightly disappointed. Partly this was because they had to leave so much out (cramming a lengthy book into a couple of hours of entertainment is always going to be hard); partly because I felt Slater was too old for the role of Adso; and partly because I seem to recall they swept much of the homoerotic content of the book under the nearest carpet.
Mercifully the series didn’t suffer in the same way. The producers had eight hours to work with instead of two. The affairs between various of the monks were openly referred to. And there was space for more of the religious wrangling that fills so much of the book.
I have to admit that I struggled with that part of it, and I did in the book too. I studied the history of religion (specifically Medieval Christianity) at University and struggled with it there too! So although it’s highly relevant to the plot, I personally could have done with less of it, and more time devoted to the mystery of the murders, the missing book, and that extraordinary library.
It was the library that first sucked me into the book and I remember being similarly impatient with that, having to wade through endless chapters of religious bickering to get to the heart of the mystery.
In the end I did… in the book. But not in the TV series. And that’s not because I didn’t enjoy it and didn’t want to know how it ended. Quite the opposite. I was saving the final episode for when I had some quality time to myself, and could settle down with a cuppa for an hour to really wrap up the series. And that’s when I discovered that the good old BBC had deleted it. Not just the episode, but the entire series on iPlayer and/or Catch-up TV. And although I’d had the episode recorded, they’d accessed our hard drive and deleted it from that as well.
So, I have no idea how things ended, whether it stuck to the book or not, and whether it was any good. What I will say is that I loved most of what I did manage to watch. The performances were great. John Turturro was excellent as an incredibly gentle version of Brother William; Rupert Everett was suitably hissable as the vile Bernard of Guy; and I rather liked the weak-willed Abbot too. One slight complaint – several of the Italian and German actors who played the monks had accents so strong I found it hard to understand a word, and would have much preferred them to speak their own language, with subtitles. However, it didn’t really take away from a lush, beautifully filmed series with plenty of intrigue, a sprinkling of romance, and a nice build-up of tension. I just wish I’d had the chance to see that last episode to understand how it all panned out.
Oh – and a special mention for whoever designed the opening credits, which were quite simply gorgeous. Making the various actors look like characters in Renaissance paintings was a stroke of genius. And I want a copy of that Bible!