The Ninth Gate

09/08/2019 10:30

Film: The Ninth Gate

Year: 1999

Director: Roman Polanski

Writer: John Brownjohn, Enrique Urbizu and Roman Polanski

Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella and Lena Olin



This was a film that I remember watching when it hit the movie channels and I loved it. There was something with the mystery that sucked me in. I love the idea of this book and trying to authentic it as well as the cult that is interested in it as well. To get into this though, the synopsis is a rare book dealer, while seeking out the last two copies of a demon text, gets drawn into a conspiracy with supernatural overtones.

We start this film off with a man as he is committing suicide. He writes a letter, before hanging himself. We then meet Dean Corso (Johnny Depp). He is looking a book collection for a family. The father had a stroke and he’s unable to walk or speak. He tells them what it is worth and they’re eyes get big. There’s a four volume of Don Quixote that he purchase. It is as Corso is leaving that the numbers he told them are exaggerated, making it difficult for his competitors.

He then goes to a lecture done by Boris Balkan (Frank Langella). Corso notices a girl, Emmanuelle Seigner, in the audience and she looks at him. Corso dozes off and has to be woken up by Balkan. The reason that Corso is there is Balkan has obtained a copy of a book called The Ninth Gate. There are supposedly three copies in the world and Balkan wants to know if the one has is real or not. He wants to make sure they all are authenticated and if there’s any differences or not. Corso takes Balkan’s copy and heads out. He seeks out Bernie (James Russo), a rare book dealer, as well as other contacts. This will take him over to Europe where the other two copies are held in Portugal and France.

The problem is that he is being followed by Liana Telfer (Lena Olin). Her husband was the one who killed himself and he sold the book to Balkan. She wants it back as it wasn’t his to give away. The girl is also following him, but she is quite cryptic in her responses. There is also a strange black man as well who is after him as well. This all leads him on a dark journey of discovery of the truth to this book and the cult that wants it.

Now as I kind of said, I used to really like this film, but I’m sure that I hadn’t seen this in like 20 years. I wasn’t sure if it was going to hold up. Interesting enough, I actually read the book off of a recommendation from a podcaster I’m a big fan of and it was like 20 pages in that I realized it. The mystery of this film is something that really sucks me in.

The book that Corso is looking into I find to be extremely interesting. The pictures in it have an eerie feel to it. It is even cooler that he figures out there are variations to the books and that there’s technically one true copy, but there is much more to the story of what is going on there.

There’s also a cult we learn around the middle of the film and that is something else that I’m a fan of. There is something so creepy about it and how they’re done in secret that I am intrigued by. What happens to start off the climax is what I actually envision a cult like this with the type of people in would actually be. This film though does take more of possible supernatural feel than the novel. It also is much darker if I’m going to be perfectly honest.

Next I want to move into the pacing of the film. This one runs about 2 hours and 15 minutes. For that running time, I never really got bored to be honest. I think part of that is co-writer/director Roman Polanski knows how to build atmosphere. The moment the book is introduced, there is just this impending dread that Corso can feel. There is something that happens in New York that makes him want out and this is literally like 30 minutes into the movie. I really like that we can feel that in order to proceed, he has to lose himself and he knows it. That makes it even darker for me. I don’t mind the ending overall.

To the acting of the film, I thought it was pretty solid if I’m honest. This is actually one of my favorite Depp roles. He just embodies this guy. There is a bit of sleaziness to him, but for the most part he’s a good guy. The type of work he deals in I love, especially the investigation part. The problem though is that he kind of has to work outside the rules at times. Langella is solid here. I just kind of wish there was more of him. Olin is quite attractive. Seigner is interesting as she is mysteriously always there. There’s a supernatural element to her, but it is played so low key, you aren’t sure if it is real. We do see her topless as well. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed.

As for the effects of the film, they aren’t a lot and what we get is mostly practical. We get a bit of blood that looks real. There is something cool done with the girl’s eyes that I liked. The only CGI I can remember is the fire that is during the climax. For it being done with computers, this is actually some of the better use here as fire can be extremely difficult to create. The film is also shot beautifully, especially the castle like structure in the end.

Now with that said, this was one that I really liked back in the day and wasn’t sure how it was going to hold up. Surprisingly I still really enjoy it. This is a later Polanski film and I would say that with this one, he still had it. I really like the mystery of this book and what Corso is finding as he looks into it. Being that there’s a cult involved as well, you have me on board. It is paced in a way that despite its longer runtime, I never get bored. I’m waiting to see what happens next. There aren’t a lot of effects, but what we get is good, even the CGI fire is fine. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out to me, but it fit the scenes and I have no issues there. Not a great movie, but definitely very good. I still really like it and would recommend this to horror and non-horror fans alike.


My Rating: 8.5 out of 10