The Ninth Gate

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff
Director:Roman Polanski
Writers:Roman Polanski and John Brownjohn
Artisian Entertainment; R; 101 minutes
Cast:Johnny Depp, Emmanuelle Seigner, Frank Langella

Creepiness comes naturally to Roman Polanski, the Polish director of Rosemary's Baby, who is permanently banned from America for a scandal involving drugs and a minor. The Ninth Gate, his first film in six years, is a spooky story centered around a Satanic text allegedly co-authored by Beelzebub himself. Johnny Depp stars as Corso, the cutthroat antiquarian bookseller hired by Boris Balkan (Frank Langella). Boris is a wealthy Satanist with the world's largest collection of ungodly books, and he's wondering if his copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows is the true one. According to lore, the real version allows its user to summon the Devil and enter the Underworld in a Faustian exchange for the soul.

As he traipses around Europe, Depp manifests the sharp and eerie presence that makes him a favorite of director Tim Burton. Corso encounters uncanny deaths and seemingly supernatural disturbances in his twisty path toward dark truth. He's followed by a cute student on a motorbike (the director's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner) who may or may not be an agent of the Devil. In lesser hands, The Ninth Gate could have been offbeat yet forgettable, but Polanski's eye for unsettling details and plot developments melds with Darius Khondji's cinematography to form a visually luxurious tale full of Old World spookiness.

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