The Ninth Gate

Review Date:
Director: Roman Polanski
Writer: Roman Polanski, J. Brownjohn, E. Urbizu
Producers: Roman Polanski
Johnny Depp as Dean Corso, Lena Olin as Liana Telfer, Emmanuelle Seigner as The Girl
An unscrupulous book appraiser is hired by an eccentric collector to find and authenticate the two other copies of the “Book of the Nine Gates”, a tome which apparently holds the key to conjuring up the devil. It isn’t long before the book sleuth finds himself caught up in a mysterious game of cat and mouse.
Creepy, atmospheric, slow-moving mystery which drew me in with its awesome opening credit sequence, kept me interested with its dark, moody look and sound, and stapled my final approval with an unpredictable resolution worthy of a second trip to the theatres. But let’s talk real turkey here…Johnny Depp pots yet another great role and takes full advantage of his ever-expanding talent to present us with yet another unique and engaging performance. This man is totally on top of his game right now (besides being a great-looking individual!) and seriously has me looking forward to any of his future roles. Harumph…but back to the review. This movie is definitely not for your typical thrill-a-minute popcorn crowd. No way! In fact, its mandate doesn’t really include thrills as much as it does the creation of feelings of uneasiness. I don’t know if it was just me, the film’s brooding cinematography, its eerily seductive soundtrack or the general Euro-feel of the entire movie, but this one definitely had me by the balls the whole way through.

Of course, it’s really more of a mystery film than anything else. A thinking man’s (or woman’s) movie, if you will. No easy answers. No wham-bam-thank-you ma’ams. Just a lot of subtle hints here and there, something said, something shown, a person seen before…definitely a film which asks its audience to pay attention and appreciate its drawn out nature. And drawn out it is. The one thing I would have liked was if they had cut it down a little, it felt like it ran on a little near the end. But then again, once the final resolution revealed itself, I can’t say that I held much else against the film. Having said that, it is to note that the ending is actually quite vague and surely in need of further discussion or re-examination in order to fully appreciate its meaning. I mixed and matched some of my ideas with that of my friend, and within a few minutes, we had already uncovered several interesting theories to complete the puzzle. Ironically, it is the film’s ambiguity that left me further intrigued to watch it all over again. Of course, I won’t deny that its unclear ending, peculiar pace and sheer length won’t easily turn many people off, because I am sure that they will, but for me personally, the film worked on several levels, with the most important one being that of entertainment.

I really liked this film. Johnny Depp is always interesting to watch, the plot has basically been seen before but not with all of its subtleties, the score is Hitchcockian and flawlessly intertwined with the film’s dark, stylish look and best of all, the ending keeps your brain working even after the final reel clicks the end. Don’t expect action, don’t expect many thrills, don’t expect Arnie with a machine gun. This is a simple mystery film mangled in the supernatural with zero special effects and a lot of depth. Interested?

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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