Hey, look: I'm only 20+ years behind on movie viewing! We saw The Name of the Rose this past week. This is my jumbled review.
The director described his work as "a palimpsest of Umberto Eco's novel." Palimpsest. It's a beautiful word. With a poetic meaning:
pal·imp·sest n.The Star
1. A manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible.
2. An object, place, or area that reflects its history: “Spaniards in the sixteenth century... saw an ocean moving south... through a palimpsest of bayous and distributary streams in forested paludal basins” (John McPhee). [bolded text my emphasis]
Sean Connery. Sean Connery's voice has the same effect on me as Garrison Keillor's voice: I am comforted and compelled by it. I also think he was beautiful as a monk.
Side Note Quote
"Females, by their very nature, are perverse." Yawn.
What I knew about the Story/Plot
Okay, I knew the basic components: monks are suspiciously dying, a monk and his acolyte come to investigate, set in the Middle Ages.
What I figured about the Story/Plot
This was a story about the power of religion (state, culture). Since it involved the Middle Ages and the Inquisition, it was a story about the extreme power of religion. And, there would probably be chanting and coarsely woven cassocks.
What was reinforced in me by the Story/Plot
One of the fallacies of ancient and modern religion is bastardized logic.
- Throw a suspected witch in the water. If she floats, she's guilty...and will be burned at the stake.
- Throw a suspected witch in the water. If she sinks and drowns, she
- If you don't confess, you will be tortured until you do.
- If you do confess, you will be tortured for your sins.
- And of course, if you disagree with the Inquisitor, you are a heretic.
- If a baby is abandoned in a dumpster and dies, it was god's will and he's now with God and safe.
- If a baby is abandoned in a dumpster and lives, it was god's will and god intervened to save him.
I was also right, there was chanting. Ditto on the burlap robes.
What I didn't Know about the Story/Plot
SPOILER: For those of you 25+ years behind on your cinematic education, you might want to skip this part.
This is a story about the perceived danger of COMEDY.
This was a surprise. The old, blind monk believed a rare, single copy of Aristotle's work on comedy to be sinful. To prevent anyone from reading this work and "converting" to Aristotle's ideas on comedy, he applied arsenic to the page corners that were routinely turned by licked fingers. Thus, poisoning and killing the readers.
As a former religious fanatic and convert to the joys of comedy, this is fascinating. Not new...I was aware how humor could be juxtaposed against sobriety with admonitions against too much levity. It's very difficult to judge medieval behavior by our modern standards--there's so much historical context to fully understand. But think about the incredible control an organization has that strips wealth, limits knowledge, forbids questioning AND bans humor from its followers?
And lest you think this only applies to dusty history, this type of control exists in every fanatical movement. Today. Because autonomy, laughter, questioning and knowledge are powerful tools against orthodoxy.
Indirectly related, I read this post by atheist blogger Greta Christina and particularly liked #3 on why she doesn't believe in god. It ties in here. Really.