Ninth Gate, The (1999)
The tagline to this occult thriller is “The only thing more terrifying than searching for the Devil… is finding him.” Sounds tried and true and easy enough, but as with Polanski’s Satanic romp on “Rosemary’s Baby,” the Devil may not be quite what you expect.
Based on the novel “The Club Dumas,” the film follows the tale of shady and downright vile book-dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp). Corso is hired by millionaire book collector and occultist Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to track down an ancient text called “The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows” which is supposed to be able to summon the Devil himself.
The first thing you’ll notice about the film is its highly-stylized look. The aesthetic sense of the movie is pure gothic beauty. Filmed mostly in France, the sets are a sight to behold, especially the many dusty libraries and castles. The score by Wojciech Kilar is excellent. Kilar is the master hand behind the haunting soundtrack to “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and, for fans of his work, its worth noting that the DVD gives the option to listen to a music-only version of the film.
As Corso digs deeper into the history and whereabouts of the fabled book, the movie begins to unlock in true puzzle-box style, leading to murder, sex, “satanic” rituals and eventually… well… that’d be telling.
Not being of the generation to see “Rosemary’s Baby” on the Big Screen, coming out of The Ninth Gate was one of the best experiences I’ve had in movie-going history. Watching the confused, unnerved and, in one or two rare cases, ecstatic faces after seeing the ending of the film was worth the price of time and admission.
As always, Polanski is a master of the trapezoidal laws of film. As Depp mentioned in an interview for the film “…within the first three minutes of a Polanski film, you feel some kind of uneasiness…” That uneasiness carries throughout the film as the story takes its time in drawing out the pieces and keeping the viewer enthralled, whether he wants to be or not.
[- Warlock West]