Back in the late 1980s, a movie adaptation was made of Umberto Eco’s historical mystery, The Name of the Rose. Starring Sean Connery and a very young Christian Slater in one of his first roles, I rather loved it and enjoyed the book on the back of it. So when I saw there was a new adaptation for the TV, I dutifully set the series link… and struggled to get more than 10 minutes into it. Fast forward several months, and I’m glad I gave it another go, as this time I was hooked back in to a mystery around books, at least for a while. What can I say, it perhaps suited the slower pace of life these days?
William of Baskerville (John Turturro) is a natural sleuth with skills of logic and deductive reasoning that would give Sherlock a run for his money. He’s also a Franciscan monk and was once a member of the feared Inquisition. Arriving at an abbey to attend a theological debate, he’s soon caught up in a murder mystery, as the abbey’s monks start being picked off one by one. But why? Could it have anything to do with the secrets in the library – a labyrinth no one is allowed to enter, bar the librarian?
It doesn’t sound like much, but I do love the story and the mystery, even though by now – several adaptations in – I fully know what’s going on. This version obviously has a lot more time to stretch out events than the movie, and thus we get several subplots about religious unrest and William’s new apprentice, Adso. I can see why these are included, and yes they round out the story a lot (giving a lot of wider historical context, for starters) but to be honest I thought they slowed down the pace of the mystery a little too much. Every flashback or aside to Adso’s wild girl love interest started to make me restless, and to be honest really came close to spoiling the big reveal.
Acting… John Turturro generally takes roles I find rather unlikeable, but this suited him perfectly – even the accent was spot on. It’s his show: other actors are good, but few really stood out for me. Michael Emerson is always good, but the drippy wide-eyed mania gets old. Rupert Everett is a little on the scenery-chewing side as the evil head of the Papal delegation. I really missed Ron Perlman’s take on the animalistic Salvatore, but as Hellboy showed, his are tough boots to fill.
The real winner for me was the sets and scenery. I mean, labyrinth of old books – c’mon! Drooling. The mystery of the library, anything involving books – that’s what I was here for, and it looked amazing. Slight shame they didn’t stick as well to the story that didn’t need as much padding as it got.
Really want to find a copy of the original movie now!
First broadcast: January 2020 (UK)
Episodes: 8 @ ~52 mins each
My rating: 7/10