The Ninth Gate (1999) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
651 Reviews
Sort by:
The secret is in plain view
diana-5110 April 2000
Warning: Spoilers

I was inspired to write this, my first film commentary ever, when I was reading through those already posted. It struck me that nobody seemed to have got who "the girl" (played by Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner) is! Everybody who mentions her -- and most do -- say she's in the film for no reason, she keeps appearing and disappearing to no effect, she's never explained, and that the film would've been much better if Polanski had only left her on the cutting room floor.

I hope Polanski is getting a kick out of this: the fact that nobody has got the secret of this, his most recent (and I think brilliant) film. I hope he's reached the point in his life and career where he cares more about making the art he had in mind than he does about whether people are getting it.

Darlings, "the girl" IS Lucifer!! It's right out there in plain view. And this is the beautiful irony of this movie: that s(he) IS right out there in plain view, to all these people who are seeking her, and doing all this stuff to summon her, and she's right there -- which is one of the oft-told truths about gods and deities throughout time, that they're right there, right next door to you, and you don't even notice them. This is the truth (one of them) that Polanski is putting on screen here. Witness the scene in the St. Martin Chateau where "the girl" crosses paths with Mrs. Telfer; look at the expression on the girl's face; it is ironic and absolutely amused. And there are more "clues" -- many more.

The girl is the only person in the film with actual supernatural powers. She floats. She is always around whenever Lucifer is being discussed. Although she repeatedly rescues Corso, she has anything but an angelic face. Her beautiful face has a subtext of evil and corruption. She anoints Corso with her blood in an arcane symbol on his forehead! And -- the giveaway -- when she finally has sex with him, didn't you notice that her eyes turn into demon eyes? that she morphs into a devil?

This is really a love story. It is about Lucifer finding a mate -- the person s(he) will accept to enter through the Ninth Gate into his/her kingdom. You can see how "the girl" is evaluating all the candidates throughout the film and how s(he) decides on Corso who is, after all, corrupt from the very beginning and therefore a likely candidate. Witness the scene when Corso is beating Pablo to death, pounding him repeatedly on the face. "The girl" says "Well, Mr. Corso, I didn't know you had it in you." She is obviously pleased with him; she is choosing her mate!!!! The reason she keeps rescuing him is because he is the one she's seriously considering.

Watch the film again. See if I'm not right.

Anyway, what probably has Polanski laughing is the fact that he managed to disguise all this so brilliantly simply by making Lucifer a girl. He's probably a bit surprised by how completely this simple gender-switch had the audience totally fooled! If "the girl" had been "the boy" -- an equally beautiful young man who follows Corso throughout the film -- I'm sure half the audience would've gotten it. But nobody, still, can imagine that the mythic figure of the devil could be female. But of course! The gods are androgynous; they have to be!

And Polanski adds yet another layer of irony and humor by dressing "the girl" as a student with different color socks: the most innocent, innocuous, universal and asexual dress imaginable. Put yourself in Lucifer's shoes. Isn't this how you'd disguise yourself, if you were making a visit to earth? Obviously it is because, if the people who saw this movie are any sample, nobody would suspect.
239 out of 257 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
What Corso represents (a theory about the last engraving)
mnjacks26 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is not so much a movie review (those are done well elsewhere), but a theory about the ending of the movie and who Corso really represents.

SPOILER ALERT**** I too have enjoyed reading the posts and have come up with something that I just wanted to throw out there. Corso is a biblical figure--he is the serpent in the ninth engraving. After all Corso experiences each of the engravings on his quest, so logically he would have to experience the ninth engraving as well. Since the woman in the ninth engraving is "The Girl"--who presumably is the Whore of Bablyon (a case will be made later on that the whore=Lucifer), the only person that Corso could be is the beast---which is a subtle but powerful point of the film/book.

The beast in the engraving has 7 heads which could conceivably represent the seven deadly sins--(i) pride (ii) envy (iii) gluttony (iv) lust (v) wrath (vi) greed (vii) sloth--throughout the film Corso commits each one of these sins, but it is done gradually. The point being that while everyone is on the lookout for a "beast" or other terrible creature it could actually just be humanity falling victim to the sins. When Corso kills the man in the cellar the girl exclaims "I didn't think you had it in you." This is what sealed his fate as her chosen one.

Just like "The girl" Polanski puts Corso right out there in front of everyone to see, but we tend to ignore him and focus on the evils committed by Boris and Liana. But those people are not who the devil is interested in, the devil wants people who are consistent and gradual with their sinning. Corso is perfect as this "everyman." Incidentally this is why I think "The Girl" represents Lucifer, because she is out there for everyone to see. All the idiots are busy trying to summon the Devil but she is right there for everyone to see. (refer to diana 51's post somewhere here for more on this, she does a great job as do many others). Just like people are always looking for the sign of the beast or his return--and tend to lose the forest from the trees (i.e. their own sins) Incidentally the "whore of Babylon" symbolism is apt because, just as a whore is a servant, she can become a master. just like the girl in the movie--she "served" Corso at many points but she also made it clear who was boss (i.e. when she twisted his arm after he grabbed her in the hotel lobby and when she held him back from saving Liana from Boris).

More generally Whores are there to offer immediate gratification, but many men have fallen victim to manipulation and have ruined their lives in pursuit of a whore. (This argument is not meant to limit whore to just male/female, a whore presumably offers immediate gratification, thus it is more beneficial to think of a whore as anyone who offers the quick fix--which is the Devil for all intents and purposes). However in order to obtain that quick fix how many of the seven deadly sins must a person commit?Chances are that a few transgressions would normally be in order.

The reason that "The girl"/Lucifer picks Corso out of all the other evil people is because he doesn't commit the sins all at once for the quick fix. He starts out his quest purely for greed, and a long the way commits each sin as he sees fit or just for the hell of it (i.e. sleeping with Liana even though he had no intention of giving her the book; accepting another "zero" to the paycheck even though a friend of his was killed; not caring about getting paid by Boris at the end--he wants the engravings). Finally when he realizes the power that is at stake he is willing to make the ultimate jump to wrath (first he kills the guy in the cellar and then he kills Balkan when on fire). BUT both times he didn't need to kill those people, he could have left Liana's helper knocked out and he could have let Boris burn to death, but he just wanted to kill them out of anger (contrast this to Boris who killed for the pages in the book--and killed Liana so that she would stop bothering him). Gradual decent into evil and darkness is what endeared Corso to Lucifer/"The Girl" and that is why he came to Corso in the form of a woman and helped him along his path. Ultimately you become one with the devil when you commit all seven deadly sins because that is the power that humans have--to choose between good and evil. That is symbolized by the ninth engraving with the woman "riding" the seven deadly sins--and thus unlocking the gate into the Kingdom of Shadows.

(Because the word limit is set at a 1000 for comments, this post is not able to discuss some other interesting points that are brought up by others. There are some who believe that Corso is not evil at all, or rather that he has no choice in his path (i.e. he attempted to save Liana and he shot Boris out of compassion). I attempt to give my take on that in a post located at (May 4, 2006 @ 11:04), but it's meant to be a complement to this post). Please forgive any repetitions. The variation in interpretations of this movie only reinforce the fact that it is a unique cinematic gem.
91 out of 103 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Found a Few More clues
cheshire55122580011 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS - - - - - - -- I just watched this movie again and there are a few comments I would like to add to the general ideas. Firstly, my impression of THE GIRL was that she was like a Valkyrie of Norse Myth, she chose who would make it to Valhalla, or Hell in this case. But she could be the devil herself certainly. Although this movie was about choosing one person to be enlightened (as they said "Thus let the light shine" on the front engraving) or if you insist on being terribly judeo-Christian-Islamic about it, de-enlightened, this could have been only one of many through the ages as De Torquia himself must have been chosen, for example.

Also, The actual 9th plate engraving shows a 7 headed beast which may be the 7 deadly sins, however, it shows the beast harnessed and being ridden by the girl reading a book, meaning she had overcome the pull of the sins and tamed them by education.

Also, the 2nd time Corso visits the shop of the brothers Ceneza, the two guys there (workmen) were played by the same one guy who played both Cenesa brothers. I checked the credits to be sure. Plus, the same child's voice on both visits says, "Si, Si Mama!" suggesting that the shop exists outside of "real" time.

To eat from the tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil is to understand duality thus the serpent could be seen as the bringer of enlightenment not death. the first two times Corso sees dead bodies (Bernie and Vargas) he says Jesus Christ or God Almight, thus signaling the god as he is generally understood is the bringer of death, not life.

The girl is overlooked because she appears poor, badly dressed and unwashed. Telfer and Balkan would never have spoken to her, even though she is the way to what they claim to seek. They can never "see" her. Balkan wears thick glasses and Corso's glasses get broken symbolizing that what is commonly accepted as a way to see really hinders actual "seeing".

The Baroness "saw" the devil when she was 15 and sought him ever since but she also fell by the wayside by distraction. Balkan, by sending Corso to do the work (even though it was his idea to compare the books) shows he is not worthy. Corso did things he never thought he would do. He went through streams, begged rides, rode with animals and walked to get to the tower. He may have followed those who forged the way, but HE was willing to see her and personally do what it took. I think any of those people could have been chosen if they had "seen" and done the work themselves. Instead they all got rich and lazy while Corso is described as "lean and hungry". Just some ideas I got from this great great work of art. I'm going to read the nove on which it was based.
25 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Great Film - Highly Underrated
Bloodfordracula31 July 2003
The Ninth Gate is a great film and one of Roman Polanski's most underrated films. Twenty years from now people will give this film the respect it deserves and hail it to be the great film that it is.

Fist of all The Ninth Gate is not an action film. It's a slow-paced psychological thriller very similar in tone and style to Polanski's earlier films Chinatown and Frantic. Johnny Depp and Frank Langella both give great performances. Darius Khondji's photography is amazing and it has an even more amazing score by Kilar. The majority of the film was shot on location and is like a guided tour through Europe.

Ignore the negative reviews and comments from people who've been brainwashed and blinded by the current Hollywood fast-food style of film making with the intention of only appealing to the lowest common denominator. A review doesn't make a good film better or a bad film worse. A superb film. Rating 10 out of 10.
405 out of 505 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Its all about the images!
tedg31 March 2000
Warning: Spoilers
This is not a thriller, and that’s a good thing. Instead, this is an intellectual film about the relationship between the viewer and the filmmaker. Anyone who knows Polanski, and for that matter many of our best filmmakers, knows he wonders about what it means to make a real movie, one that works as art. Which is to say it does more than amaze and entertain.

This movie is to Polanski as “The Name of the Rose” was to Umberto Eco. That was a book about what books aren’t. This is a movie about what movies aren’t.

Caution, spoilers ahead!

The story is frail -- that’s the point, in fact a little too obvious for my taste. The book in question has been poured over for over 300 years, with everyone focused on the text. And that text is completely irrelevant, disposable, just as the story of the film is. The whole point of the film is in its images, the story is deliberately degraded to make the point. (The images are great: Polanksi working in partnership with LCR?)

It’s all about abstraction. How could viewers not catch the layers of the inferno/hosts of angels references?

--at the bottom level, you have the Frenchman who owns the book but isn't interested except for the beauty of the binding

--then you have the Baroness who has spent her life writing about the devil and never even considering the pictures, even though she had the best clue--she SAW him.

--at a higher level, you have Liana Tefler, who knows there’s some power in the artifact but is still focused on the text (and incidentally sex)

--higher still you have Balkan who knows the text is worthless, and the pictures the real value but thinks the magic is in the pictures

--then you have the two brothers who have the power to tinker with the power of the pictures

--finally Corso who we see moving from the bottom of the list to this layer where he knows the power is not in the pictures themselves, but in the quest. (At the beginning, the value of the book to him is neither in its text, nor pictures, but in its binding and rarity.)

--then we have “the girl” who IS the pictures

--and we have the viewer.

This is a cross, four people stacked, the two brothers and then three more people stacked -- A layering actually used in early 17th century tracts on the nature of abstraction, which in retrospect are called occult. In fact it is the same layering of semiotics outlined by Eco, and much earlier used in the apprentice novels of Goethe (including Faust, which this story quotes).

That’s nine players, eight levels of consciousness created by the filmmaker, each layer tossing aside something. Who is the ninth player, the final abstractionist? You.
139 out of 173 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Excellent film...Grossly misunderstood! Easily one of Polanski's finest!
Aditya Gokhale27 November 2008
Some of the critics ratings and user ratings really surprise and shock me at times. "The Ninth Gate" is rated so low, even by the critics (and several movie buffs), I really did not have much expectations from this movie. However, it was after all, a supernatural thriller by Roman Polanski and that was reason enough for me to see it. This, along with some comment I read somewhere that it is similar to Angel Heart, heightened my curiosity and finally saw it! And boy.. am I glad I did!

This is one of Polanski's finest films. There is no sense comparing it to Polanski's earlier classic based on the supernatural, Rosemary's Baby. That is, of course, a classic, but that does not render The Ninth Gate any lesser in terms of quality. The story revolves around a man called Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), who happens to be a dealer in rare books. He is hired by a wealthy book collector by the name of Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to authenticate a rare and very special book in his possession, "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows". There are only three surviving copies and Balkan is convinced that only one is authentic and the others, forgeries. Corso takes up the job and then begin his investigations and a very mysterious odyssey full of twists and turns. To reveal anything more would be a crime. One should watch the movie to experience it completely.

Polanski has incorporated all the elements that make for a great movie. An interesting plot (based on "El Club Dumas", by Arturo Pérez-Reverte), Darius Khondji's brilliant cinematography, Wojciech Kilar's killer background score, Polanski's masterful direction and the overall atmospheric nature of the movie make up for a great watch! Not to mention some great acting from Johnny Depp (always dependable) and Frank Langella. And let's not forget Mrs. Polanski herself, Emmanuelle Seigner in a very interesting role.

As for the poor reviews this film generally got, I must say I am stumped. There is not a single weak moment; the proceedings glide by smoothly, and are more than intriguing. Suffice to say, it's a very well made film and a fascinating experience.

Never mind, that some so-called critics have lambasted it for some unanswered questions and ambiguities in the story. They are probably the kind who like everything packaged in a neat order with ends all tied up, and are averse to enigma and ambiguity. My viewpoint is that there may be untied ends and unanswered questions...but it is nothing that can't be figured out.

The Ninth Gate is the kind of movie that you would wanna watch again..and then discuss it with fellow-viewers..then watch it again. And am sure, every viewing will yield newer ideas and interpretations..
14 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
See this one more than once
BonesawLtd7 December 2003
I just got finished reading some of the other threads that discuss this movie. They ranged from the angst ridden youth spouting off about how there was no action, to those who truly loved this movie. I know that this movie is practically 5 years old, but this is one of my favorite movies of all time. I am an avid horror fan. I love everything from slasher movies to the silent films from the 1920's. I admit, when I saw this movie in the theater, I was very disappointed. I think I was expecting some whiz-bang battle with the devil at the end, and for those of you who've seen this flick you know that this is not how it ends. Now, almost 5 years later, I own and watch this film very frequently. Now that I have seen this movie numerous times, I can appreciate the creepy atmosphere and the deep storyline. I have even said to myself "How could they have ended this movie differently in a way that I would be completely satisfied (other than the way they did)?" I couldn't answer that question. For those who have only seen this once, take the time to watch it again with different expectations. I know that there are some who will never like this movie, To each his/her own, but I am very glad that I took the time to see this one again because as it stands now, it will have a locked spot in my top 10.
148 out of 195 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Proves You Don't Need A Ton Of Action To Make A Good Thriller
ccthemovieman-19 November 2006
What makes this movie rather unique in this day-and-age is to see a horror- occult movie that has very little action. That may turn off a lot of modern-day viewers and critics but I thought it was long as the story could still keep one's attention, which it did. It also did it with a pretty long movie: 133 minutes. I have played this movie several times for friends and no one has gotten bored.

The attraction is (1) decent acting; (2) some great sets; (3) an involving story; (4) interesting characters and (5) low profanity.

What keeps most viewers interested is simply wondering what is going to happen next in "Dean Corso's" (Johnny Depp) quest to figure out the hidden message. Without giving anything away, this is a classy, solid thriller.....and more importantly, fun to watch.
102 out of 132 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A tragically under-appreciated work of art
Lawrence Bortman22 March 2000
Warning: Spoilers

At first, I thought it would be best not to say too much about this movie. It is so good that I didn't want to give any of it away. However, now that I've read the overwhelmingly negative reviews, I'd like to say a few things in the movie's defense.

The Ninth Gate is not a horror movie, not a thriller, not a campy comedy, not a drama. If you force the movie in any of these categories and judge it by the category's standards, the movie will be doomed to fail. What is the Ninth Gate, then? I'd say it's a character-based exploration of good and evil that also entertains us by poking fun at the representation of good and evil in popular culture. At the same time that the film plays with and laughs at cinematic conventions related to Satanism, heros, and villains, it offers us a very serious view of the nature of evil in contemporary life. This view crystallises at the very end of the film, when the ninth gate explodes with light. Insane psychopaths who spend all their time and money trying to wake the devil are not what the devil wants, this film tells us. The devil wants those millions of lukewarm types--people who are centered around their own survival and comfort, without strong feelings of morality, love, or hatred. To win these people over to the side of hell by offering them knowledge, power, and pleasure would be to win a great battle against God.

The charge that the movie is ambiguous is preposterous. Some say that the unnamed girl could be an angel, a demon, or a good but flawed person. Which should we choose? Well, anyone who watches the movie closely and sees how she reacts to various murders should have no trouble choosing. Others say that the ending is either heavenly or hellish and that it's impossible to say which. Again, anyone who pays attention and notices that the castle is the ninth gate, that there is a shadowy figure standing in the window when it fills with light, and that Depp is the very man depicted in the book that he reads should easily realise that the ending is utterly hellish. The film does leave open the question of whether hell is actually a reprehensible place, I think, but this is not ambiguity; this is a disturbingly open question that the film raises with intellectual mastery. Evil does have its attractions; that's why it's so prevalent throughout the world.

There is so much more to say about this movie, so many little details that deserve praise. Take Depp's ride in a truck filled with sheep--this is the birth of an antichrist. This time the devil wins with his/her temptations. Take the resemblance of the figures in the film to the figures in the books--clear but not at first obvious. There's so much here, so much. This is an exceptional film.
28 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
HUGE SPOILERS HERE--read me for clarification
heliophobic20 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers

I don't have time to read all 270 reviews right now, heh, though I have read several. One I saw that caught my eye mentioned something about the libraries and all of the "precious" books being burned, pages destroyed, ripped up, etc... My own take on this is that here all of these people are searching through the books, looking for the supposed wisdom inside, but that wisdom is never contained inside. I think the books are burned to symbolize the fact that the answer will never really be found in them.

In this vein, many people have expressed a lot of confusion over The Girl, but they're missing the point of the film entirely. *She* is Lucifer. First of all, as it's been noted elsewhere, she is the only character that exhibits supernatural powers in the whole movie, in spite of the fact that there's more satanists than you could throw a rock at. Throughout the film she guides and assists Johnny Depp's character Corso, showing up at the most opportune moments, giving him information he'd never be able to get otherwise (like the girl's last name, St. Martin, and the location of the last page).

But the most crucial element here, and one I haven't seen mentioned before, is that SHE is the "Ninth Gate". It's the mirror image of divine grace. Corso is chosen by Lucifer herself, tempted by her, and led to the final realization of what's been going on all this time. She tempted him and he accepted. He was already somewhat sleazy to begin with, his soul already tainted, which was symbolized by his indulgence in so many vices. This is not a guy you can count on to "do the right thing." Witness the way he bashed the satanist's head in with the butt of the gun and then didn't seem too upset about it. In fact he hardly registered it at all--The Girl was more moved by the murder than he was.

Absolutely no one could have told Corso where the last page of the gate engravings was except Lucifer. Corso was hand-picked. I mean, would you give Ultimate Power to just any bozo? Of course not. That was the whole idea behind the puzzle of the nine pages in the first place. It weeded out idiots like Boris Balkan. He thought he could get power by figuring out the puzzle but he was as ridiculous as the robed and cowled satanists that he derided at the chateau.

All in all, I think many people missed the entire point of this movie which is somewhat disheartening. When you see The Girl's picture on the last page it should all come together for you. If not, maybe something straightforward like The Omen series would be more your speed.
21 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A film about books has never been so interesting...
Chalice_Of_Evil26 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Regrettably, I never saw this film at the theatre. I wish I had, though, as it is just my type of movie. I first saw it on TV, and after taping it and watching it numerous times, I realised this was a film that I simply HAD to buy on DVD. And so I did. I've watched it a few times since then, and it's still as good as the first time I watched it (if not better), which is why I regret not getting to see it at the cinema.

So...what makes this film so great? Well, to put it bluntly...EVERYTHING. The story, the way it's told, the way the film looks, the characters and the actors, the MUSIC - it all combines to make what I think is a superb (yet sadly underrated) film. Okay, so it may not be for everyone. It's not mindless action, for one thing. It actually requires some *thought* and some may perceive it as "slow and boring", but for those who like a good psychological thriller filled with mystery, intrigue and supernatural elements, then this is the film for you.

Johnny Depp adds yet another fine performance to his already extensive resumé. Dean Corso is a character who, in the hands of a lesser actor, may have come across as someone quite unlikeable. In fact, at the start of the film, Corso isn't a particularly likable guy. But Depp wastes no time in making you grow to like him, and pretty soon you're on his side, as he goes on this rather bizarre assignment of his. And what a journey it is, filled with an assortment of weird and wonderful characters - all brought to life by actors with varying degrees of experience (but all of whom give equally solid performances).

Frank Langella as Boris Balkan is an ever-looming presence in the film. Although he doesn't share that many scenes with Depp (and is mostly just heard over the phone), Balkan's voice is more than enough to remind Corso of what he's gotten himself into. He's a scary guy, and Langella does scary more than adequately. Then there's Lena Olin. What can you say about her? She's - quite simply - awesome. She's sultry, sexy and deliciously evil. As Liana Telfer, Lena Olin gets to play low-key menacing, only to switch to over-the-top chest-biting/face-scratching psycho woman on a dime.

Then there are other characters that Corso encounters, like the twin Ceniza brothers, Victor Fargas and Baroness Kessler (and her scary secretary), not to mention Telfer's ridiculously-haired bodyguard. All these characters have their quirks and every one of them makes for an interesting encounter with Corso. However, the best - hands down - has got to be The Girl (nicknamed "Green Eyes" by Corso), played to perfection by the mesmerising Emmanuelle Seigner. I had never seen her, nor heard of her prior to this film. I can safely say that I have been missing out in the BIGGEST way. What a find she is. Emmanuelle is everything this quite essential character needs to be: she's alluring, she's mysterious, she's wicked and most importantly, you can understand why Corso would be drawn to her. In her mismatching socks, dirty sneakers and baggy anorak, she is the most unassuming person Corso could meet...but there's this underlying sense of malice. With her otherworldly features (most notably, her brilliant green eyes - which cannot be anything but supernatural in nature, given the way they flare up occasionally), not to mention the way she seems to - on occasion - FLOAT, you can tell that she's bewitching Corso (in a sense) and aiding him on his journey towards what he seeks.

All of their scenes together are great (and yet, she's not overused in the film. She only appears at key moments and her interaction with Corso is all the more effective *because* of the rather limited amount of scenes they share). It all culminates in a rather steamy scene outside an appropriately flaming castle. This scene is most memorable, due to the excellent use of effects. They're so subtle, and yet incredibly effective. Just watch her face (and yes, I realise that's probably not the thing your eyes would be immediately drawn to in the scene), keep an eye out for the blink-and-you'll-miss-it changes and how eerily effective they are. It's one of the creepier moments in the film (and quite possibly my favourite moment of all). The music also helps make the scene unforgettable.

This movie is filled with great moments, though. It's all exquisitely shot, the music is perfect throughout, and it's evident how much precision and care has been put into the film (even the beginning and end credits are memorable/unsettling). And the moral of the story? Beware the blonde with the excessively hairy eyebrows. Don't have sex with the devil in disguise in front of a burning castle.
13 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It keeps getting better...
pickpock9 June 2004
What I like most about this movie, is that there are new things to be amazed by everytime one sees it. The first time I watch it, I was captivated by the music ( and Johnny Depp, gotta love him...) I also really liked the story and most of the actors' performances. The second time I watched it I started to pick up on the details, like the engravings, the real purpose of the mystery woman and the excellent work on the scenery and lightning. Now, I think I have watched it maybe 7 or 8 times, and it keeps getting better and better. This film is really has a life of it's on, and a life filled with passion, that is. It really has it's dark moments as well as uplifting ones. Everyone should see this movie. Unfortunately, I don't think everyone can't or won't take the time to just sit down and appreciate it. This isn't an action movie, the latest Hollywood production or one of those romantic comedies "everybody" love. Sometimes it's kinda slow, but that's part of it's charm. Great things doesn't have to be rushed, filled with explosions and have naked women running around with their breast flip-flopping all over the scene. This is, one brilliant film and those who doesn't agree just can't understand it.
267 out of 367 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The movie is a riddle too
Tardis_phone_home23 August 2005
Roman Polanski's movies aren't about shooting and destruction like so many other movies these days, his movies are about people and their remarkable adventures. The Ninth Gate is supposed to be a thriller or horror movie but it is neither. The Ninth Gate is an occult movie and that is a whole different ballpark.

spoilers ahead!

'You have before you the mystery of which men have dreamed throughout the centuries. Thousands have died an agonizing death in hopes of just a glimpse of what you're about to see!' Those words are spoken by Boris Balkan, moments before he sets himself on fire in an attempt to raise the devil. The Ninth Gate is not only a movie about occultism, it is an occult movie by itself. First there is of course the obvious story that most people find quite disappointing BUT under the surface there is the real story that is only understood by those who are fairly familiar with symbolism and occultism.

Although The Ninth gate is based on just a part of the book El Club Dumas, it is nevertheless a clever story of its own.

The movie is about a riddle that is supposed to be hidden in three books, in the end that riddle is solved by Dean Corso. The movie itself contains a riddle and that riddle is to be solved by us. Besides the engravings, lots of symbolism and hints will help us understand the meaning of several strange events and eventually the meaning of what the story is all about and what happened to Balkan and Corso. The plot is created around a joke, a joke that is based on a misunderstanding. This makes a movie that one needs to see more than once, I bought the DVD and saw it over twenty times. The story gets better every time you watch it, pay attention to even the smallest details like the color of the mysterious girl's socks, there is a good reason why Corso has a shoulder bag and an overcoat he never seems to part from, until the 'notorious' very last scene; shoulder bag and overcoat are gone... Aren't you curious about the meaning of broken glasses in combination of a mark between the eyes? Search the internet for the answers to the questions you have. It's fun if you like to solve riddles, I had a great time.
49 out of 62 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Near Perfect Gothic Mystery
Brian Bagnall30 December 2004
Johnny Depp is perfect as an acerbic, bookish, cynical, morally corrupt book dealer. There is a great cast of occultist characters who are way over the top and enjoyable all the way. Frank Langella as a giant, power hungry cult leader and Lena Olin as an evil she-devil woman are superb. The script is perfect, and every line has meaning and resonance. The director does a good job at allowing the viewer to experience the mystery contained in those old books first-hand. I think the filmmaker had a vision, didn't compromise and made the exact film he wanted to make. It is a mature, ugly, interesting film with a lot of class but it probably won't be enjoyed by a lot of people out there.
101 out of 139 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great movie, no Hollywood cheese.
Almo!28 June 2001
Excellent movie. I've seen it about 10 times now. The soundtrack rocks, with all sorts of 3's, 6's and 9's in it. (9 note melodies, melodies repeated 6 times, thirds for intervals...) Nearly flawless editing, I can't find any plot mistakes. Great film noir atmosphere. Excellent acting by Johnny Depp and Frank Langella.

Roger Ebert gave it 2 stars, because he didn't like how vague the ending was. The vague ending is one of the things that I think makes it excellent.

The title sequence is one of my favorites ever, right up there with Se7en.
17 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Best Polanski in years...
Adam Frisch29 November 1999
Granted, I'm slightly biased since I happen to love Mr. Polanski's work, but this film was really good. It kind of built in a slow, very menacing way and had an intelligent plot, only fully concluded until you're out of the cinema. As usual with the demanding master, the performances are first class, specially Langella and Depp. Here comes a brief summary of the highlights in my opinion:

Brilliant cinematography by the talented Darius Khondji (of Se7en fame).

The most original title sequence I've seen this side of Bond.

Also listen closely to Wojchiech Kilars (of Dracula fame) absolutely brilliant score. So light, and yet so heavy and menacing. Very un-Hollywood.

It definetly puts Polanski back into the game again. Now if they'd only let him back into the states so we could get

a new Chinatown.....
91 out of 135 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wonderful contemporary thriller...
jake-8112 March 2000
As with many of Polanski's films, "The Ninth Gate" includes beautiful settings, great orchestration, and intriguing characters. He was able to put together a talented cast, including several from the largely untapped European community. These include Jose Lopez Rodero, giving a short but humorous and witty performance, and the striking Emmanuelle Seigner, who plays her part with the perfect subtlety (no doubt due in part to Polanski's influence). Johnny Depp (playing the bibliophile anti-hero) gives another adept performance and the musical score is expertly composed. The only negatives I noticed were that the movie was at times too slow paced and that the ending left something to the imagination. But all-in-all Polanski has left us with an enduring thriller propelled by a (refreshingly) character-driven tale.
71 out of 111 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Good movie with philosophical insights
antti-5716 August 2008
I think this movie was very fabulous. I was fortunate enough to see without any kind of idea about movie beforehand. Didn't see the move from beginning or whole, basically just stayed watching after wandering front of TV. Had no idea what movie was about.

Why this movie is fabulous is because it ambiguous. Reading many comments here, I got bit better insight what movie was about. I admit also missing few things, but fortunately got most parts right in first try.Movie has good mix of ominous events and old mysteries hidden in books that leave you wonder for a while.

But I'm not totally convinced about the accuracy of many interpretations what I've read . What I do think is that Polankski made a movie, that actually imitated how mysteries work.

He creates patterns us to see in interpret, but actually leaves us to figure out on ourselves what they mean. What they mean to us actually, not necessarily what he meant, if he even meant anything at all with them. Some patters lead to something, others to many things as they are vague or nowhere. Devilish stuff - or just normal mysteries worldwide.

How movie ends is exactly like that.

Most interesting question I find after watching movie was the idea of Devil in the movie. I actually didn't get the notion Devil was most evil person in the movie.Way Boris acted later on the movie when he address cultist, I think sort of crystallized what the movie was about.Devil can't make you do anything evil, if you don't want to. And then you probable would do it anyway without Devil. So why worship something for it, if target is anyway selfish not caring about you and you do what you do anyway? And why would Devil care about then do you worship him or not?

I think that was the main joke in the movie. Corso in the movie differs rest of characters in way the he doesn't actually believe in Devil. He is just motivated by self interest and probable by intrigue. Thats why he is main character and sort of picked above other persons in the movie. That also means he also actually has something to offer for Devil, as his self interest connects to Devils. So Devil is rational in this movie besides Corso, others are more or less loose cannons that actually have nothing worthwhile to offer. Lesson here: rational people are motivated by self interest.

So why does no one ask in the movie why the books were created in the first place? Its interesting though to believe somebody would create people something wonderful just to grasp, but why would anyone, especially Devil, do it without some use for himself? Devil wouldn't, but most people after books never stop and think about it. And thats how many cultists think, they aren't rational in their beliefs. Part of the movie actually shows how funny cultist are, even the Devil they worship can be seen amused by them.

In this movie, Devil looks far more person that really doesn't care about something unless it really benefits him/her.

But like I said, you can get other interpretations from it, just my 5 cents.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
At last, something interesting ...
scytherman2 June 2001
Congratulations and thanks to Polanski & Co. for making a truly enjoyable film.(and that's something considering the kind of drivel that is available for our entertainment these days!) For those who keep moaning about being left-out of the ending or the meaning of the film-stick to your Disney's Classics or else grow up, read more books and be more imaginative! These people probably need a on-line walkthrough to go to their own toilet and cant appreciate a little mystery or enigma! Let's face it-the world's a mysterious place and you cant expect neat and convenient signposts! The film as I understood it: Unknown ages ago Satan had given mankind a "manual" describing how to acquire godly powers, in the form of "Delomelanicon", a legendary scroll written by no other than "Louis Cyphre" himself! A Venetian demonologist, Aristide Torchia, acquired a copy of this work and adapted its text and engravings to a book he called "The nine gates to the kingdom of shadows". Torchia deliberately hid the true knowledge of the "Delomelanicon" in three variations of his book-a measure to weed out the lamebrains who read the book "just for a Sunday evening". Only three copies survived his torture and eventual burning at a stake.It is of these volumes that Balkan speaks of in the film. Corso is a cynic and only realize the true significance of the "Nine gates" as he research for Balkan's assignment. In the end it becomes an obsession for him, too. As for the ending ... seeing the last engraving Corso finally realises the true meaning of his quest and he is magically transported to the Devil's castle for an audience with Satan himself. From the choice of actors and the musical score to the locations, the use of SFX, visual metaphors ... "The ninth gate" excels. Polanski's vision is unique, to put it mildly, and the acting by Depp,Lagella and Jafford adds realism to the the quirky characters. Films of such delectable european flavour are indeed rare in these days of uninspired, talentless films. Please dont give us a sequel("Return to the ninth gate", "The ninth gate-part 2") ! For those who found the film to be "heavy" - give up on the original story "The Club Dumas" by Arturo Peres-Reverte ... you will be confused some more. As for the rest, please find a copy and enjoy since it is much more detailed than the story and have those cool engravings!!!!
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Some people don't know what "thriller" means...
Roger-14112 October 2000
Warning: Spoilers
I was quite taken aback by some of the highly negative comments about this excellent supernatural thriller. After a bit of reflection, I noticed they seemed to fall into two groups:

1. People who thought that a "thriller" is a similar genre to an "action movie". This movie contains no explosions, only three on-screen deaths, and only one high speed chase which lasts all of about 10 seconds because the chasee gets away. It does have sex, mystery in a very Sam Spade-esque sense, unusual camera techniques to heighten tension, plausible levels of violence, and a very spooky supernatural element. That last deserves some amplification too: with modern CGI, you might be expecting some breathtaking "apparition" effects. And you'd probably be thinking, "Nice CGI, but it's really kind of cheesy". Not in this movie; the supernatural element is so subtle it nearly makes your skin crawl. In fact at quite a few points you nearly start thinking they're all just crackpots and nothing is really happening, but then Seigner's "thing" happens again and makes it clear that All Is Not Well.

2. Some people were annoyed by the lack of an explanatory ending. I admit I am not sure what happened, but I've a couple of theories and enjoyed discussing them with others after the movie. What's wrong with that, for heaven's sake? It's a bit of a sad indictment that people feel cheated if they don't get everything spelled out for them. For those who want my theory, MILD SPOILER ALERT

It's not shown because it's irrelevant. The film is about Corso's journey of discovery and seduction; he is transformed from faithless and selfish to openly embracing evil. Does he gain what he seeks? The question is unimportant, what mattered was his decision, for one way or another he is now surely lost.


My only gripe: I was actually kind of interested in the puzzle, but they never showed it clearly enough or long enough to get to grips with it. Maybe this is to force me to get the DVD 8^(
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Pure satanism
non-422 December 1999
This movie is really one of the greatest of all times. The score, the pace, the actors all just fits perfectly. The problem is the story (no no, it´s also great!). You have to know very much about the satanic background to understand all the details and the course of the plot. And that doesn´t involve the "traditional" satan nonsense. The audience was very disappointed, cause they awaited a devil or something like that. But it wasn´t about such crap (go, see arnold for that), but about following your own goal. And it was a pleasure to see the character evolving in that way through the movie. There won´t be that much people who´ll understand the film, but they´ll enjoy it!!!
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Go To Hell
Rich18 February 2006
I loved this gem from Roman Polanski. I haven't seen a bad Polanski film and this one didn't let me down either. It is the best "devil" movie that I have yet to see. I really enjoyed how the film differentiated between bogus Satanism and what would more likely be the case if Lucifer were to make his presence known. Johnny Depp is brilliantly cast as the shady rare books dealer and Frank Langella gives his best performance as the millionaire Satanist intent on finding the final page of a spell that was reportedly written by The Dark One himself. This is an intelligently written and well acted film directed by one of the masters of cinema. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Point
wisemove-26 December 2008
This is an enjoyable movie. Roman P. is a great director. Right up there with Martin S. This movie, if you believe it, is about getting an equal footing with God through Lucifer. Lucifer is the father of all lies. Don't believe in the point of the movie.

Of all the talented directors Roman P. is the only one who is obsessed with horror and specifically with the devil. Why ? Look at Rosemary's Baby, The Fearless Vampire Killers, etc. The story line is fascinating, to be on a level with God while on earth. No one in the history of man has Lucifer ever giving anything to us except horror. Lucifer, once God's best friend, tempted by Bilal to realize himself more, turn out to be God's great enemy. Hmmmm, Jesus of Nazareth choose 12 close friends to be his apostles. Three of them choose to deny Him. One choose to betray Him. Judas the betrayer, Peter denied knowing Him, and Thomas who choose to see so that he can believe.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews