Beautiful and faithful film...
Dianne Foster | USA | 11/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE ROSE RENT consists of a single rose the Abbey of Saint Peter must pay each year for the use of a cottage owned by a devout and beautiful young widow (she who played the wise-cracking leftist journalist Anne in THE ICE HOUSE). The young widow no longer wishes to live in the home she once shared with her beloved husband..much to the sorrow of her cousin who would like to marry her himself (he played Mr. Bingham in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). Having received permission to use the cottage to generate revenue, the Abbey leases the property to a middle-age craftsman and newcomer who is given to strange midnight rides into the nearby forest.A young novice from the Abbey is drafted to tend the rose bushes at the cottage and appropriately he is also given the task of snipping and delivering the single "rose rent" each year on the anniversary of the death of the husband. The novice, who was himself "given" to the Abby when he was a small boy finds himself attracted to the beautiful young widow. Others detect his interest and soon he is accused of "lusting after the flesh" by one of the more puritanical of the Abbey Fathers.The plot thickens when an untimely death occurs, and the cause of the death seems "unnatural"...in fact Brother Cadfael (Derek Jacobi) suspects the death has been caused by arsenic the young novice has been using to dress the rose bushes. Has the novice taken leave of his senses and killed his accuser as Father Jerome insists, or are other forces at work? What of the craftsman? Where was he on the night of the murder which occurred in his own back yard? And the cousin? Has his desire for the young widow driven him to commit murder?THE ROSE RENT is one of the most interesting and emotionally satisfying of the Cadfael stories. Those who have not read the books or who have difficulty following the machinations of the politics of the era will enjoy this film because it truly considers human emotions, desires, and character and is less reliant on some of the "historical" elements that drive the other stories (in other words one does not have to understand the civil war between Stephen and Maude to follow the storyline).I love the Cadfael stories no matter what..but this is one of my favorites and the cast is steller."
Mostly in light of the faithfulness of the adaptation
Michele L. Worley | Kingdom of the Mouse, United States | 03/30/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Screenwriter Christopher Russell also adapted A MORBID TASTE FOR BONES. As with BONES, Russell has tinkered with events in the story so that most suspects' motives are played in the key "crime of passion" instead of being mixed judiciously with "crime for gain". Little changes have been made in many background details, such as adapting characters' names to modern ears and eliminating some suspects' potential henchmen and non-romantic entanglements (easier on the budget but at the cost of puzzle and characterization). I find all those points of difference irritating, like midges; the really annoying points are where the major characters have been reinterpreted, or shown acting out of character.
Rather than trimming the beginning of the story, Russell has added material, starting 4 years before the opening of the book, upon the death of Edred Perle (here "Edward"). Quite against his nature as drawn by Ellis Peters, Cadfael helps Judith Perle perform a mercy-killing (conveniently, no priest is present). For Cadfael's true opinion on such use of the means of healing, read MONK'S HOOD and THE POTTER'S FIELD. A much smaller nitpick is that the abbot wouldn't have conducted Edred's funeral; that's the job of Holy Cross' parish priest, who at that time would've been old Father Adam.
Judith's character herein differs from the original, who let others see only one gesture of passion and grief: deeding away the house where she'd been happy to the abbey. The charter's wording (here presented when drawn up) is subtly different - rather than being an almost-free gift, prayers for "Edward's" soul are now added to the rose rent, making it a more ordinary transaction. A more persistent reminder of Judith's different characterization as a weaker, weepier woman is that she flinches from pushy suitors, not even meeting their eyes - no aura of calm self-possession here. I find the reinterpreted character exasperating in her own right, adaptation issues aside. Cadfael's remark that she's too strong to take her own life - which he didn't even have to make in the book - no longer seems justified.
In the book, the charter paid for the lighting of Mary's altar, so its impressionable young custodian delivered the rent, with predictable results from his first prolonged acquaintance with a still-young woman. The background of the rose rent was filled in by reviewing the charter, rather than with flashback. Now the monks of Shrewsbury (rather than their tenant Niall) care for the rosebush personally, with Eluric as one of Cadfael's helpers. Eluric's suffering over Judith receives much more play than other aspects of his character (granted, that was predominant anyway).
Each of Judith's suitors has undergone modification. Godfrey Fuller's proposal is more emotional appeal than straight business proposition; Judith's rejection is portrayed with cringing revulsion rather than polite, firm refusal of a long-time business associate. Vivian (now "Thomas") Hynde has lost both his name and his ominous sidekick. Bertred the weaver, paradoxically, is more ingenuous and less of a social climber - but his mother's character has been eliminated and his relationship with Judith's maid emphasized. Even Judith's cousin Miles is now a would-be suitor - although the blood relationship was too close without formal dispensation in those days.
Rather than 4 years - about the length of time Niall's been widowed - Judith's only been widowed for a year or so when murderous events are set in motion. Originally she sought out Sister Magdalen for advice on the cloister before any violence in the story, but now the events are reversed. The attack on the rosebush is now far more subtle - white lead poisoning - but this provides *less* of a motive for a murderer, being less traceable. Judith's thoughts of the convent now are driven by guilt, not only over the rose rent resulting in a death, but a reawakening interest in men.
Prior Robert replaces Anselm in the meet-the-corpse scene, and Radulfus is amazingly careless with the details of Eluric's confession in the hearing of even laypeople like Niall. Niall Bronzesmith's personality bears no resemblance to the original; here his late wife died not in childbirth, but in a suspicious accident with a lover. He's embittered, rather than being a quiet pillar of society.
After Cadfael takes a wax impression of the murderer's footprint in the garden, Cadfael actually objects to Oswin's suggestion of consulting the town cobblers, saying that the murderer would destroy all his footgear. However, Cadfael has more than once snared a killer who couldn't financially afford to destroy incriminating clothing - quite apart from being unable to launder or replace it easily in the 12th century. Even in the 15th century Dame Frevisse novels, the same scenario is plausible.
Last point: Eoin McCarthy (who played Thomas Pitt in the 1998 adaptation of THE CATER STREET HANGMAN) seems miscast as Hugh Beringar, being a big bluff blond type giving an easy-going impression. For Beringar, I prefer Sean Pertwee, the wiry clever-faced actor who first took the role."