The Ninth Gate

The Ninth Gate

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Satan inhabits the loony toons section of the horror genre. Roman Polanski is drawn in that direction.

His first outing since the disappointing Death And The Maiden confirms an instinct for filmmaking that nurtures the supernatural without losing the plot, at least not until it's too late to go back.

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What holds the story together is the mystery of The Nine Gates Of The Kingdom Of The Shadows and whether it has the power to raise the Devil. Johnny Depp plays Dean Corso, a dealer in ancient texts, hired by Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), a billionaire collector, specialising in Satanic literature, to find the only remaining copies of this 17th century tome, reputed to have been written by The Dark One and later abridged by a Venetian scholar who was burned at the stake for his trouble. According to Balkan, there are three copies left in the world, only one of which is genuine. He wants Corso to find them, check their authenticity and report back.

Depp's performance is crucial. Always a minimalist actor, he creates a thoroughly believable character in Corso, whose fascination with the search is accompanied by increasing disquiet at odd coincidences and sudden deaths. Polanski is careful to build slow, with infinite patience, so that when things break they do so as if from a parallel universe. There is nothing more fearful than intimations of fear. Corso is drawn into the realms of the inexplicable by his bibliographic inquisitiveness and, like Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut, finds himself a part of something far beyond his understanding.

Polanski and Depp conspire to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the audience. The ways of evil have a strong hold on the imagination. Take a deep breath.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The Ninth Gate packshot
In search of the book that the Devil wrote.
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Director: Roman Polanski

Writer: Enrique Urbizu, John Brownjohn, Roman Polanski

Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford, Jack Taylor, José López Rodero, Tony Amoni, James Russo, Willy Holt, Allen Garfield

Year: 1999

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Spain

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