Acclaimed French director Roman Polanski returns to the horror genre with the Ninth Gate, or does he?
The Ninth Gate follows the life of bookworm Dean Corso (played by an always impressive Johnny Depp) as he tries to find the last two remaining copies of an extremely rare book called, “The Book of the Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Darkness”. The book is mythically spoken as a text written by an insane man who claimed that “The Devil” wrote the book through his hand. A disbeliever Corso continues his quest to unlock the authenticity of the other copies and what he finds even shocks Corso.
The Ninth Gate is one of Polanski’s greatest films as it doesn’t try to conjure up the horror but instead goes for the intelligence. The intelligence in this film reminded me a lot of Polanski’s all-time greatest film, “Rosemary’s Baby”. Rosemary’s Baby is a horror classic because it was so intelligent and we didn’t need to see the gore or even the baby to know what evil men were doing. And to bring it full circle that’s exactly what this film is intelligent and has no gore but intrigue.
What I enjoyed about the film is that it wasn’t in a rush to convey any of the pieces of the puzzle but instead brought us into the mystery and made us curious what the right sequence and or pages were the ones to unlock the Devil’s secret. As each piece to the grand puzzle was revealed Depp was faced with a new hurdle and through that kind of plot revelation I was reminded of “film noir”. The mystery and its unveiling is very similar to a those great dark mysteries of the thirties and forties.
Another great strength was another great performance by Johnny Depp who proves once more that he is becoming one of our greatest actors. From the first twenty minutes, I wondered if this bookworm was to boring to follow around on his quest. But when the plot deepened and the myth was slowly revealed he captivated me in a way that Indiana Jones captured me when he watched that burst of sunlight unlock the “Well of the Souls” in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.
As for faults, Ninth Gate is great as a mystery and relic seeking type film but its supernatural finale and the French-Angel chick made me scratch my head. Was she an angel? Was the Ninth Gate really what the people thought? Did that evil consume our hero or did it satisfy his curiosity?
The Ninth Gate needed a more satisfactory ending but not done over the top. What I mean is an ending similar to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where the real power is revealed and man has no hope in hell of harnessing it. Let’s see a little of that power these people craved so much.
(4 out of 5)
So Says the Soothsayer.
Written: March 12, 2000