The Name of the Rose

by Umberto Eco

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What does the rose symbolize in The Name of the Rose?

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In his postscript to The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco includes a few remarks on the symbolic significance of the title, including the observation that "the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left." This refers to the novel rather than the film, but the film, as Eco himself observed, was remarkably faithful to the novel. Where anything was altered, the emphasis was always on leaving out complexities rather than adding them. There is, therefore, no new symbolism attached to the rose in the film which did not appear in the book.

In both film and book, the rose means both anything and nothing. It symbolizes whatever the audience decides it should symbolize. The film is partly about the impossibility of choosing between a myriad of possible interpretations, and, in such a self-referential postmodern text, it is only fitting that the audience should be challenged with the same problems of meaning that face the characters.

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