Holy shit, this movie came out in 1999?! It feels like it’s a lot older than that. I remember seeing The Ninth Gate in theaters and thinking it was long as shit. It’s really only just a bit over two hours, but having no idea who Roman Polanski was or anything about his style of filmmaking, it felt like it lasted forever. All I knew was that I wanted to go see it because it was a scary movie and had something to do with Satan so I thought I was a cool ass dude for checking it out. I even remember that when it came out on VHS…WAIT, WE WERE STILL USING VHS BACK IN 1999?! BUT WHAT ABOUT Y2K?! Anyways, when it came out on VHS I watched it again, and I really only remembered three things that happened in it. I remember that Johnny Depp was looking for a book or something, I knew that someone flew around or something, and I knew that some people had sex in front of a flaming castle…or something. Since I’ve been doing research on trying to find more movies about Satan and The Ninth Gate has popped up a few times so I figured it was time to revisit it. So I did. And this is what I thought. No, seriously, this is a review…of the movie…I’ve been talking about.
And would you believe the working title of the movie was “Johnny Depp: Bookhunter”?
As the procurer of rare books, Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is given an offer too good to refuse. A 300 year old book that is supposedly able to summon Satan is purchased by Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), but Boris makes it clear that summoning Satan was unsuccessful. Boris explains that there are two other copies of this book, both in Europe, and sends Dean to Europe to validate their authenticity. The first book he finds looks to be almost in the exact same condition, except a few differences in the illustrations. Each book has nine illustrations in it, and each copy of the book has a slight difference in three drawings, and each of the different drawings is signed with LCF….LIKE LUCIFER, BRO. That’s right, Lucifer is a sick-ass artist. Dean tracks down each different copy of the book, yet tragedy strikes each book owner after Dean confirms what the differences are. Dean also notices that a mysterious woman seems to be following him, played by Emmanuelle Seigner, who he just takes as someone who Boris has sent to keep tabs on him. Tracing the origins of the books and tracking down the differences in the illustrations leads Dean to multiple mysterious, crazy, and sometimes violent characters. Despite being able to track down all the illustrations, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered, and it’s really up to the viewer to decide what they have just seen.
There are times where it’s possible Emmanuelle Seigner’s character is someone hired by Boris, a demon, or just a weirdo freak who loves having sex in front of burning castles. MAYBE SHE’S ALL OF THE ABOVE!?
Before going any further, I just wanted to clarify that I did find The Ninth Gate to be enjoyable. Kind of amazing that with the subtleties and pacing skills of someone like Roman Polanski that the idea of book hunting can seem dangerous, exciting, and mysterious. Johnny Depp played his character as a little more balanced and little less eccentric than basically every character he’s played in the past 10 years, so that was also a refreshing thing to see. JOHNNY DEPP CAN ACT LIKE A NORMAL ASS DUDE, EVERYBODY. WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT?! Despite the creepy premise and the pacing of the movie being a success, there are still some things that just didn’t sit right with me. Even though the tone of most of the film was that of mystery and suspense, there are still a few moments that play as pretty comedic. Whether it be a cartoonish character harassing Depp’s character for being a vulture early on in the film, combined with some silly musical choices to go along with it, there are strange moments that feel almost wacky when juxtaposed with the tone of the rest of the film. Another thing was that if you spend an entire film tracking down something that will supposed be able to put you in touch with Satan, you kind of hope to get an answer, one way or another, on whether or not this “Ninth Gate” is in fact a reality. Even though the journey to get to the ending is relatively enjoyable, I think the ambiguity of what really happens at the end is a little underwhelming, but I can see how others might enjoy that ambiguity. Yes, Polanski takes you on a fantastically creepy journey, I just wish that I could more thoroughly enjoy the destination.
Wolfman Moon Scale