The start of the new TV adaptation of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose threatens the same fate, but wields an intriguing twist. In this case, the battles and swords and armour weave around a murder-mystery tale in a 14th-century Italian monastery. A whodunnit involving monks with quite distinguished bald spots? Why not?
Guglielmo da Baskerville (John Turturro) isn't just a Franciscan friar – he's a super-sleuth
Set in 1327, when Ludwig of Bavaria – the future Holy Roman Emperor – has declared that religion and politics should be separated. But the French Pope John XXII (Baptiste's Tchéky Karyo) doesn’t agree, excommunicating Ludwig and igniting a war between them. In Italy, their armies fight.
The imposing dread of a badly sketched version of Game of Thrones settles quickly. The opening battle is small and strained: resembling more of a historical re-enactment, a play in the mud, than a visually convincing conflict. The series drops into these boring moments a lot, as if to herd in a mainstream crowd.
as the focus changes to the Franciscan friar Guglielmo da Baskerville (John
Turturro) and his young novice Adso (Damian Hardung), the interest levels rise. The
two travel to an isolated abbey in northern Italy, which is about to
host a debate between Baskerville and John XXII about the current crisis – but
they arrive to the discovery of a murdered monk.
Luckily, Baskerville is something of a super-sleuth; he even has his own version of a magnifying glass (a pair of strong lenses). The writing really comes through during these abbey investigations: Baskerville’s enjoyable skills of deductive reasoning and John Turturro’s Holmesian performance combine to form a very watchable hero. Scenes of literal book-making and secret monastery passageways only add to the historical fun.
not long before the drama inevitably returns to the drearily violent context
of the time. Rupert Everett plays the Dominican Inquisitor Bernard Gui (loyal
to John XXII), who burns apostates and drags naked women behind his horses. Why couldn't the writers stay inside the seclusion, paranoia, and claustrophobia of
the abbey? The Name of the Rose has its moments, but it’s a pious struggle to
The Name of the Rose airs on Friday 11 October at 9pm on BBC Two
|The Name of the Rose, BBC Two review
11 Oct 19 – 06 Dec 19, 9:00 PM – 9:50 PM