Monday, 1 August 2011

The Ninth Gate (1999)

Johnny Depp is Dean Corso, a book collector with an exclusive client base who employ him to track down rare/valuable books. When Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) hires him to uncover whether his book "The Ninth Gate" is the authentic version of only three in existence, Corso is wary, but intrigued by the challenge. However, when he discovers that the Devil himself is rumoured to have had a hand in writing this tome, Corso finds himself caught up in a mystery he wishes he could escape from.

In terms of atmosphere this film is great; there is a lot of tension as we only know as much as Corso. I also love the fact that everything revolves around lots of old books, which themselves have their own atmosphere. It’s just a shame that everyone smokes all over the books, it takes a French collector two thirds of the way through the film to tell Corso not to smoke in her library; a book collector should know better! Parts of the film are very Omen-esque, as a few people die or accidents happen as depicted in the Devil’s book; which all adds to the sinister feel of the whole film.

Roman Polanski doesn’t do anything particularly fancy as director here, but he does manage to create a sinister, almost claustrophobic atmosphere. Particularly in the shots where Corso is walking down streets, the camera is positioned very close to the walls to make them look as though they are really hemming the character in. Johnny Depp turns in an understated but overwhelmed performance as Corso. His character starts off very knowledgeable and slightly cocky, and gradually finds himself in situations that he can’t control, a character arc that JD carries out with aplomb. Langella is alright; other than setting up the main plot and appearing in the finale he doesn’t appear very much; but his deep gravelly voice at the other end of Corso’s phone calls is a constant malevolent presence throughout the film. Elsewhere, Lena Olin is quite good as Liana Telfer, a woman who has recently become a widow, but nevertheless is also after a volume of The Ninth Gate for her satanic rituals, she bites and scratches quite a bit too! Emmanuelle Seigner plays "The Girl" who seems to follow Corso around, (she actually becomes quite important), but she was just wooden and really didn’t seem to be into her character.

Although this is not an amazing movie, a good cast and a very spooky atmosphere make this an enjoyable thriller.