The Ninth Gate
|Distributor:||Live / Artisan|
The horror of Roman Polanski is not about spectacle and shock but a goose-pimply sense of evil lurking just outside the frame and hidden behind the faces of slightly unsettling characters. For a while it looks like The Ninth Gate, adapted from the novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, might recapture the beautiful uneasiness of such masterpieces as Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. A calm, almost sleepy Johnny Depp plays cynical, unscrupulous rare-book hunter Dean Corso, who’s hired by demonologist Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to…
The horror of Roman Polanski is not about spectacle and shock but a goose-pimply sense of evil lurking just outside the frame and hidden behind the faces of slightly unsettling characters. For a while it looks like The Ninth Gate, adapted from the novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, might recapture the beautiful uneasiness of such masterpieces as Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby. A calm, almost sleepy Johnny Depp plays cynical, unscrupulous rare-book hunter Dean Corso, who’s hired by demonologist Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to authenticate a rare volume that, legend has it, was cowritten by Lucifer himself. Dean leaves a Gothic looking New York (re-created in Europe by Polanski as a sinister city of shadows) for Portugal and Paris to compare Balkan’s volume with the two copies known to be in existence and uncovers a mystery with unholy ramifications. He also finds himself at the center of a conspiracy that involves Balkan, a widow who will stop at nothing to retrieve Balkan’s book (Lena Olin, who gleefully bites and claws her way through the part), and a mysterious guardian “angel” (Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner) who shadows his every step. The Ninth Gate is full of rumbling menace and deliciously unsettling imagery, but Polanski’s languorous direction and purposefully vague story render a film that’s eerie without every becoming thrilling. It’s perpetually on the verge of becoming interesting—right up to its obscure final image. —Sean Axmaker
Barnes and Noble
A suspenseful hybrid of supernatural thriller and literary detective story set in the cloistered world of rare book collectors, The Ninth Gate marks the return to form of internationally renowned director Roman Polanski. As he did in Rosemary’s Baby some 30 years ago, Polanski takes pleasure in imagining satanic currents seething beneath an ostensibly mundane milieu. This creepy tale finds ethically challenged rare-book dealer Johnny Depp accepting an odd commission from millionaire collector Frank Langella. As the owner of a fabulously rare tome on Satanism, Langella wants Depp to find two collectors who possess the only other surviving copies, then compare discrepancies in the engravings, which hint at a terrifying secret. Polanski allows viewers to accompany Depp as he tracks down the other collectors, analyzes the clues in their books, and narrowly escapes death before uncovering Langella’s hidden motive. Exquisitely photographed and less dependent on special effects than most films in this genre, The Ninth Gate relies on clever plotting and evocative atmospherics to enhance its aura of quiet menace. Ed Hulse
Lucas Corso, middle-aged, tired, and cynical, is a book detective, a mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found hanged, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment.
The task seems straightforward, but the unsuspecting Corso is soon drawn into a swirling plot involving devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling derring-do among a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of Dumas’s masterpiece. Aided by a mysterious beauty named for a Conan Doyle heroine, Corso travels from Madrid to Toledo to Paris in pursuit of a sinister and seemingly omniscient killer. Part mystery, part puzzle, part witty intertextual game, The Club Dumas is a wholly original intellectual thriller by the internationally bestselling author of The Flanders Panel and The Seville Communion.