I just saw "The Ninth Gate" - WTF?!

I saw “The Ninth Gate” on TV yesterday, as part of a Halloween special (which, thankfully, also included “Evil Dead”) and I just had to vent my frustration.
What was this movie supposed to be about? There’s some satanism, some people get killed, Johnny Depp travels through Europe… that’s it. There’s no ending, nothing even remotely scary happens, the actors obviously don’t believe in what they’re doing, and what little style there is in the directing gets lost in the overall inanity of the movie.
I’m not a big expert on Polanski (I haven’t even seen “Chinatown” or “Rosemary’s baby”), but I’ve seen his 1965 psychological horror piece “Repulsion”, which I thought was a wonderfully scary, eerily beautiful, and in the end very effective film. Needless to say, I didn’t find any of that in “The Ninth Gate”.
A friend of mine actually applauded the way in which the film managed to convey suspense in a non-Hollywood sort of way. I swear I have no idea what he’s talking about. Am I missing something here?

Basic premise:

Guy wrote a book with clues as to how to get in touch with the big S a couple hundred years ago. Modern day, wealthy publisher/Satanist thinks completing the secret ritual described in said book will gain him awesome EvilGuy powers and hires Depp, ancient book acquirer extraordinaire to go get him the last copies of said valuable book. Witches/demons in human guise, creepy old houses, foppish uber rich Satanic ritual/orgy poseurs all come and go. In the end, Satan wins.

I basically see this movie as a Satanic The Amazing Race. Amusing in a mindless way, and the spooky chick has a nice body which you missed in the broadcast version :slight_smile:

I loved the Ninth Gate. But maybe that’s because I’ve been warned that scaryingpeople was probably not Polanski’s intention. I think it’s made with a hilarious distance, and what it’s really about is a dance with the convention. it’s more a group of quotations, and stylistic fun. it’s certainly not aimed at being realistic or coherent, but I had a great time watching it. :slight_smile:

I do think that if you watched “Rosemary’s Baby” and, most of all “The Fearless Vampire Hunters” you’d get a great idea about how Polanski approaches the genre.

Yes, Repulsion was terrifying. But I think “9th Gate” is more “Vampire hunters” than “Repulsion”.
My friend once summed up the movie with half a sentence… “Hey, remember all those Daffy Duck cartoons where he’s in a haunted house?..”

Or maybe I’ll jkust take any movie with Depp. :slight_smile: The more over-the-top the better.

You mean that cut this bit out? LOL. Well. That’s rude.

I’ll usually take any movie with Mr. Depp too. Usually. Tho he did his usual superb acting job, the awful pacing and worst-movie-ending ever sure ruined it for me. As a fan, I’ve read interviews with Depp where he said it was a really tough shoot, hard working with Polanski…fortunately for JD at least he met his significant other while involved with working on the movie.

Also, I understand that Polanski explains some things on the Director’s commentary, but I’ll be danged if I sit thru the movie again for that.

No, you’re right. A movie shouldn’t need explaining. I guess it’s a matter of what you have a taste for any given moment. I could well see myself disliking the flick, but it just never fails to put me in a great mood. (seen it 2 1/2 times)

Posted by MikeG:

So she has, but who was she? An angel? A demon? In either case, why did she so obviously favor Depp over the rich guy? These things should have been explained, at least a little bit.

It would have ruined the movie, in my most humble opinion.

I personally thought she was the devil herself. If she was, it’s obvious the first one she’s f**k over would be the worshipper. :wink: They’re the first to go.
But it’s the part of the movie to keep guessing, while someone’s blatantly chuckling at you from the darkness.

Yeah so what was that ending about? I was so clueless. It wa actually a good movie until the end. Can someone explain it for me?

Although I’m no fan of the film, it does provide food for thought.

I think the “spooky chick” was one of Satan’s minions whose role was to act as a gatekeeper, turning away the unworthy and admitting the worthy (sort of a combination mentor/threshold guardian.) What makes Depp worthy? Maybe Spooky decided he’d be a good lay. Seriously. This kind of makes sense in an evil context, don’t you think?

On the other hand, maybe he’s admitted because he enters without preconceptions. The rich guy thought he knew better than anyone else what Satan was and thought he could use him to his own ends. Depp’s character seems more willing to meet Satan on Satan’s terms. People seem to underestimate Satan throughout the film. I can see why he might want to show them a thing or two. At the very end, Depp’s character crosses the final threshold to claim his… reward? We’re not worthy to see what he sees. We have to complete our own quests and discover our own truths.

Or, maybe Polanski ran out of film.

Well, that might explain it. “Fearless Vampire Killers” didn’t do anything for me, either.

I most certainly did not :). European television is a lot less stuck up about nudity.

My sister thinks the spooky hot chick was the devil herself, too. Maybe she was, but I just don’t care :).

Another thing which really bugged me about the movie was how careless all these ‘bibliophiles’ stored and handled their priceless volumes. Depp’s character in particular couldn’t seem to even look at a book without smoking all over it. Bothered me endlessly.

About mis-handling the books! that is something almost EVERYONE I know who saw the movie points out from the very first moment. It is so blatant, I wouldn’t believe it’s accidental.
TWDuke. i realy like your theory about the ending.

[Long response; the stuff about the girl’s identity is at the end.]

The movie is loosely adapted from the novel “El Club Dumas” by a Spanish TV journalist-turned-writer, Arturo Perez de Reverte.

The novel is considerably more complex (and IMHO more structurally incoherent) than the movie. In the novel, Corso is first embroiled in a subplot concerning a fragment of an original lost manuscript by Alexandre Dumas, the prolific author of “The Three Musketeers”. Corso discovers the existence of an exclusive and secret association of wealthy, powerful Dumas-ophiles who gather [annually? I forget] rather like that Satanic coven depicted in the film.

Corso then becomes involved in the “Ninth Gate” plot, about determining the authenticity of copy of the “Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows” owned by Boris Balkan [or was it Varo Borja?]. Corso then must try to figure out the connection, if any, between the two sets of intrigue, as well as the associations and motivations of “the girl”.

The film condenses two key client/suspect characters, Boris Balkan and Varo Borja, into the Balkan character. The film’s editing also helps reinforce that Corso’s adventures echo the “Nine Gates” engravings – and thus implies that Corso is perhaps negotiating these tests (the “gates”) himself and that perhaps this was fated.

Don’t blame Polanski for his elusive, ambiguous ending, because this was very much in the spirit of the ending of the novel. In the book, Varo Borja stiffs Corso of the money he owes him, turning his attention to summoning Satan instead. A pissed-off Corso leaves him, but moments later hears the most pitiful and terrifying screams and wailing. What exactly is happening to Borja is thus never made explicit, as Corso doesn’t turn back or return to Borja, so you can only imagine Borja’s fate. (BTW, in the novel, the act of summoning the devil involves more than mere possession of the genuine engravings; there’s a considerable amount of puzzle-solving and wordplay – in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Hebrew – required in order to discover the necessary incantation. A nice bit of intrigue, but all but unfilmable.)

Shortly thereafter, Corso ends up with the girl (who is not nameless, but has using the name of the female murderess from the Sherlock Holmes series, a notorious character who eventually kills Holmes). Throughout the novel, there were references to the unearthly green sparks in her eyes, and perhaps other details, that suggested that she was no mere human being. Although her identity is not made explicit, one can well guess, given Corso’s conclusion (and the final line of the novel), that “everyone ends up with the devil he deserves”. There were other clues in the book; I think there was a reference to some occult text about the devil falling in love, or something.

My impression from reading the novel was that she was indeed “the” devil, and not just “a” devil.

As for the question of “why the attraction? Why Corso?,” I think it has something to do with Corso’s corruptibility (he is more amoral than anything; perhaps it is more sexy to seduce such a person into being ruthless?); his skeptical, professional detachment from the occult mysteries; and even his physical attributes (Perez-Reverte repeatedly describes Corso’s deliberate adoption of a bewildered, rabbit-like expression at times, to disarm those who might suspect or oppose him; this suggests that Corso is both a dissimulator and prey, fit to be snared in someone else’s trap).

I’m a big fan of the film, and will probably re-read the novel at some point. Both the book and the film are stylish and fun. I think Polanski (and/or the screenwriters) accomplished three key objectives: 1) they condensed and clarified the source material so that, while still a detective story, it played more like a very stylish suspense thriller; 2) they racheted up the sense of the uncanny through their expert use of all the usual filmmaker’s tricks (musical score, cinematography, set design, editing, etc.); and 3) played it all with tongue planted firmly in cheek. That the film, and Corso, don’t take this too seriously helps the audience, paradoxically enough, to take the intrigue more seriously. Just as Corso’s character has to be converted to the validity of occult goings-on, so too does the typical viewer. Registering Corso’s skepticism, and Polanski’s deft touches of humor, helps us identify with the beleaguered book detective.

Polanski, et al also did a good job of salting the film with clever little clues of an occult nature. (Although the detail about Gruber, the hotel clerk in Paris, wearing a lapel pin of crossed keys was in the novel, IIRC.) Even if you want to write it off as eye-candy for bibliophiles – well, is that so bad?

One more thing: the way everyone mistreats the books bothered me too! But this problem is so pervasive, it’s almost certainly intentional – either suggesting to us to not take this too literally, or constituting a running in-joke referring to the filmmakers’ irreverent attitude to the problematic source material they had to work with, Perez-Reverte’s novel.