The Ninth Gate
is a 1999 movie by Roman Polanski
, freely adapted from The Club Dumas
by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, starring Johnny Depp
as Dean Corso, an expert on rare books. A client, Boris Balkan, asks Corso to authenticate his copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows
. The book has three copies surviving, due to the rest being burned at the stake in 1667 with its author - because the book is supposedly an adaptation of another book co-written by Lucifer himself.
As Corso attempts to figure out which of the three copies is the genuine one, he discovers that the Nine Gates
has a purpose - when used correctly, the book will raise the Devil himself and grant the summoner great supernatural power. Corso is not the only person who has figured this out, and is chased by others who want the power and protected by a mysterious girl. The deeper Corso delves into the mystery of the book, the deeper the pile of bodies left behind becomes.
That, of course, is the movie. In the book, Corso has two missions. One is to try and authenticate his client, Vara Borja's, copy of "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows." The other involves "The Anjou Wine", a chapter of the original manuscript of The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas
, père. This manuscript was once owned by the late Enrique Talliefer, a millionaire who specialized in cookbooks, who killed himself. While traveling around Europe on his mission(s), he finds himself being stalked by a man and woman who look uncannily like Milady de Winter and Comte de Rochefort.
What do these two strangers want with him and what is the connection between The Three Musketeers
and the Devil?
This book includes examples of:
- Affably Morally Ambiguous: "Irene Adler" (or whatever her real, demonic name is).
- Angel Unaware: While the movie only implied it, The Girl is specifically stated to be a fallen angel in the book.
- The Baroness: Baroness Ungern, while actually holding the title, is not one.
- Black and Grey Morality.
- Blondes are Evil: Liana Talliefer
- Butch Lesbian: Makarova, who in the words of the author "looked like a fitter from a ball-bearing factory in Leningrad."
- The Devil Is a Loser: The Girl seems to think so. And she would know.
- Femme Fatale: Liana and the Girl
- Genre Savvy: Discussed, played with and ultimately subverted. The Genre Savvy Corso recognizes the connection between the two plotlines, only to find out that there was no such connection, and that by reading too much into the situation he was distracted from what was actually going on.
- Ghostapo: Baroness Ungern was the assistant of Hitler's personal astrologer when she was younger. Corso produces a photo of her with Himmler to blackmail her at one point.
- Green Eyes: The Girl's are dwelt on in detail.
- Hammered into the Ground: Corso gets pushed into the floor by Frank Langella, who delivers the one-liner, "It seems you found your proper niche at last... I like that."
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Discussed, in regard to Dumas' treatment of Cardinal Richelieu in his books. Occurs in-story with Giordano Bruno, who while a bit of a kook, was not a devil worshipper by any means.
- Karmic Death: Varo Borja
- How We Got Here:
- Meaningful Name: Boris Balkin
- Meta Fiction
- Nazi Nobleman: Sort of. While apparently friendly with Nazis, Baroness Ungern was not a noblewoman back then.
- Nouveau Riche: Enrique and Liana Talliefer who "have more money than taste," according to Corso.
- Plagiarism In Fiction: Enrique Talliefer plagiarized an obscure novel, Angeline de Gravaillac, for his book, The Dead Man's Hand, or Anne of Austria's Page. Balkan's discovery of this fact drove him to suicide.
- Rooting for the Empire: In-universe, Liana is a big fan of Milady de Winter and hates the Musketeers.
- Shout Out: Listing all of them would take up a page on its own.
- Most obviously, there's a blatant shout-out to Sherlock Holmes when the Girl identifies herself once as Irene Adler.
- And the entire interaction between Corso and The Girl is a reference to Jacques Cazotte's The Devil in Love.
- Smug Snake: Varo Borja, so much.
- Summoning Artifact
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, as well as the Delomelanicon.
- Unwitting Pawn: Varo Borja suspected from the beginning that the authentic engravings were spread across three books and sent out Corso to confirm this theory and to serve as a fall guy for the murders of Fargas and Ungern.
This movie includes examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Corso, in the book described as rather unattractive, is played by Johnny Depp.
- Adaptation Distillation: The movie removes several subplots from the novel, combines numerous characters and changes the ending.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Order of the Silver Serpent probably like to think of themselves as this.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Liana Telfer's main henchman in the movie is a bleach-blonde black man.
- Composite Character: The film's Balkan is a composite of the book Balkan and another character, Varo Borja. Also, the film's Andrew Telfer is a composite of Enrique Talliefer and Gualterio Terral.
- Cultural Translation
- Death by Adaptation: Bernie the bookshop owner is killed early on. His book counterpart, Flavio la Ponte, is a major supporting character and stays very much alive. Also Liana Telfer and Boris Balkan, although it's not really the same character as in the book.
- Fade to White: The ending.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: The last of the engravings in "The Ninth Gate" is hidden in what, in hindsight, is an extremely obvious spot. "If this is a forgery or a copy with missing pages restored, it's the work of a master," says the master bookbinder.
- Hot As Hell: The Girl, who makes the Devil look GOOD.
- Impoverished Patrician: Both Victor Fargas, the Portuguese owner of the second copy, and Liana Telfer, who had to marry Andrew Telfer in order to save her ruined French aristocrat family.
- Louis Cypher: Signed LCF.
- Mind Screw: The ending.
- No Name Given: The Girl.
- Number of the Beast: Balkan has the largest collection in the world of books about the Devil. Guess what the password to his library is?
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Balkan gives one to Liana and her followers.
- Sidekick Ex Machina: The Girl, who is always there just in time to extricate or save Corso.
- Starts With A Suicide: The film begins with Andrew Telfer hanging himself in his library.
- Tarot Motifs: The film includes many examples of Tarot imagery.
- The Hanged Man - Corso's friend is killed in this manner.
- The Tower - Balkan's death occurs by fire, in a tower, after a lot of pride.
- The Magician - Boris Balkan.
- The High Priestess - Baroness Kessler or Liana Telfer.
- The Empress - Liana Telfer.
- Death - Fargas.
- The Hermit - Fargas
- The Fool - Corso.
- Unusual Euphemism: At one point, Liana tells Corso "don't fuck with me," to which he responds, "I thought I just did." The TV Edit changes "fuck" to "mess" making Corso's response unintentionally bizarre.
- Although "mess around with" is a more widely used euphemism for the sex act.
- We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: the Ceniza brothers tell Dean Corso that forging an antique book is very difficult and has a low profit margin.
- Forging old books actually is really difficult even with modern technology and techniques and unless the title forged is extremely rare the profits are not even nearly worth the work. And if one forges a high enough profile book that it would net enough money on the market to cover the cost of forgery, a Gutenberg Bible for example, the risk of getting caught would be extremely high.