I’ve been recently defining myself as a book worm although I’ve always loved reading. But I feel that ‘Book Worm’ is a term I needed to officially earn, and I think my frequent visits to the library and different book stores clearly prove I am one. I began reading books which were later on adapted into films. Books like Dracula, Chocolat, The Princess Bride, Christiane F, etc. And now I have The Club Dumas the 1993 novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte in my possession which was about five years later adapted into The Ninth Gate by Roman Polanski. When I’m through reading the book, I’ll be able to correlate between the two, but I’m just at the beginning, so perhaps let’s talk about the film for now. For the sake of Johnny boy. All I can tell you is that the character names have been mildly altered (Lucas Corso/book= Dean Corso/film).
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, and Emmanuelle Seigner
Synopsis: Book dealer, Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), is hired to authenticate a rarity known as De Umbrarum Regni Novem Portis (Of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows) a book written by Aristide Torchia in 1666, coveted by bibliophiles well aware of its true powers. The book contains nine woodcut engravings copied from the Delamelanocon explaining each gate to the kingdom of shadows. It’s the one and only handbook to enter the dark realm.
Corso’s investigation leads him to locate and compare two other copies and determine which one is authentic. Meanwhile, Corso’s endeavors set him off to meet a series of questionable characters, including a seductive widow, a mysterious girl, obsessed bibliophiles, and devil worshipers.
The Ninth Gate (1999) is compelling, wacky, and above all, a fun watch. It’s entirely underrated and I think it should have received more attention than it did, although it can get slightly cheesy in some effects. It’s one of those films that stand the test of time and ages gracefully. I revisit it anytime I can because it just has that rewatchable effect on me. It’s atmospheric, to say the least, and the story’s great.
The cast is brilliant, starting with Johnny Depp as Dean Corso – a callous book dealer that nurtures his professional liaisons and money, has no friends nor the intention to make any, quite the presentable chap who’d work for the highest bidder. Dean Corso is one of my favorite Johnny Depp characters outside of the joint filmography with Tim Burton. He sets aside his pale weirdo typecast for a more of an urban outsider yet still remains in his perpetual antihero comfort zone. He looks hot as always and I wouldn’t mind trading other things than books with him. Emmanuelle Seigner is The Girl – a beautiful green-eyed mystery woman who always appears when least expected to Corso’s rescue. Seigner, an acclaimed French actress and Polanski’s wife starred in at least five of her husband’s films, is mostly known for her transgressive and daring performances and enigmatic beauty. Lena Olin is another favorite of mine. She’s femme fatale Leanna Telfair, a captivating and strong-willed occultist who stops at nothing to get what she wants, and Frank Langella is Corso’s employer and somewhat intimidating bibliophile Boris Balkan, an extremely determined satanist.
“You read from this book, but you have no conception of its true power. I alone have grasped its secret, I alone have fathomed the master’s grand design, I alone am worthy to enjoy the fruits of that discovery: absolute power to determine my own destiny!”
Dancing on the darker fringes of cinema for as long as he does, Polanski’s really good at synthesizing fact and fiction to form seriously messed-up narratives, even when they are inspired by books. The controversial director stands behind a long list of mystery induced psychological thrillers like Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion, The Tenant, Bitter Moon, Frantic, Chinatown, Ghost Writer, Venus in Fur, and many more. With Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Polanski plunges into the inferno only to return with The Ninth Gate (1999) and I think he did very well in producing a sexy, sarcastic and stimulating version to Pérez-Reverte’s novel.