The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Library Review Series: Interlude article of Movie, The Name of the Rose

Review of: The Name of the Rose. Movie. (1986). Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Starring Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, & Christian Slater. Jake Eberts & Thomas Schühly, Executive Producers.
For: Clayton Hometown Gazette
By: Tim Krenz

What value would humanity ultimately price its knowledge? Who owns civilization's knowledge, everyone or no one? What does one do with knowledge?

In the 1986 film, The Name of the Rose, the questions above form a Post-Historical dilemma of a “knowledge hazard,” in which the accumulation of knowledge at every step of its increase, from facts or fictions, science or poetics, holds the secret to save, or destroy--nothing, anything, or everything at anytime. The Post-Historical “knowledge hazard” increases when information expands, becomes quicker and easier—at a cost—and now less subtly reflects the ancient struggle of liberty for minds versus tyranny over minds.

Italian writer Umberto Eco wrote the best-selling novel adapted for the screen. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud captures the novel quite well. In the early 1300s, the story's time and place, literate men (not women) of Western civilization controlled peasants and suppressed powers of noble lords with the fear of God's wrath, hell, salvation and the apocalypse directly through the canons of the Universal Catholic Church. These men of cloth and sanctuary determined truth without dissent.

Set in a 14th Century Benedictine Abbey in Northern Italy, the story plot concerns a book, hidden in the abbey library, and that book's conflict with Church infallibility. All issues become exposed by a dissenting Franciscan monk who swore poverty for his faith. Played by international film star Sean Connery, the protagonist-dissenter, William of Baskerville, encounters and solves, but does not resolve, a series of deaths & mysteries that will result in the destruction of the gifted book the abbey had to offer.

Narrated by the character of his young charge, Adso (played by Christian Slater, but with a different voice-over of an older man), Baskerville's journey arrives back to a dark mark of a near conviction before the inquisition for heretical views from that of the Church. First, however, when arriving at the abbey to participate in a debate on whether the church should renounce its riches, Baskerville passes the peasants paying indulgences for forgiveness, or tithing their faith with the produce of their farming. Other peasants, meanwhile, would scrounge the refuse of the well-fed monks for the scraps of nourishment—absconders of the trash excess from the wealth-gluttony within the abbey In entering the abbey as an anti-hero of 20th Century fiction, Baskerville notices a fresh grave in abbey cemetery, intriguing a mystery the abbot commissions Baskerville to solve.

Mystery leads to mystery, and to more death, as the first monk who died, known for his talents as a book illustrator, did not die accidentally as presumed. Having worked in the scriptorium copying and embellishing volumes of knowledge, the monk committed suicide. Before any hint of printing presses, books could only exist by writing them; only disseminate and multiply by copying them; or improving their appearance and saving them; by labor of hand and a deal of patient effort. For this, many Benedictines valued the illustrator. His lost talent lost itself in his youth betrayed.

With the most educated scholars in Western Europe, the Church controlled the physical books, the art and language of writing, and a spoken language of the Church (Latin). Having a monopoly on knowledge in the post-Hellenic Age (post-Greek and Roman empires), the religious orders owned both the power of purse and the power of dissent. No opposing view to the Church, or political force by collective power, could prevail in a society under a central power that, as George Orwell aptly put it, limited the range of the people's consciousness by limiting the range of words used to express dissatisfaction, or to analyze and reason by description and contrast.

Brother William of Baskerville pursues the string of tragic events with reason and analysis, a reduction from impossible to plausible, a rejection of supernatural causes (and of skepticism of supernatural faith), and a rational scientific mind to unlock the mysteries above the abbey, in the library. The one obstacle: No one but the librarians may enter the mysterious abbey library.

Having made their way at night into the library tower by secret, Baskerville and Adso discover one of the greatest libraries in the world—full of thousands of books and maps, etc., from as far earth's memory. Unfortunately, Baskerville and Adso become lost in a labyrinth, a system as connected as any soul to the story. For Baskerville, the ecstasy unfolds in this treasure tower, the abbey's Forbidden Eden, of complete enlightenment. Baskerville's experience unfolds as much as Adso's carnal knowledge unfolded in losing his innocence to a peasant girl searching for food in the abbey trash heaps.

William of Baskerville discovered the source of the events that caused learned men to fear and encouraged well-fed men to gluttony: The only “surviving” (i.e. a myth) copy of Aristotle's second volume of poetics, on the topic of humor and comedy, that he and Adso find in a secret library room.

Watch Annaud's film of The Name of the Rose, or both watch the film and read Eco's novel (available in translation). Find both or order them at a local library. Think about the questions in the introduction. Knowledge comes at the sacrifice to keep it, and preserve it. If not shared widely, we forget it in time. If not shared openly and wisely, knowledge can destroy people, and the earth in the end. Either way, experiencing life has little value unless shared—for better, or for not better. Teach and learn. In the Post-Historical Age, knowledge has to have more than “information” to it. It must possess substance, like a movie or a novel—with place, time, plot, character, setting, and theme. A public library provides many of these needs. And people provide what follow that prerscription, if we use knowledge for one reason it might exist—to find truth in any meaning, even like Baskerville in the end, if we cannot resolve it to the satisfaction of self-assured ego.