The Ninth Gate is a film directed, and co-written by Roman Polanski, loosely based on the book The Club Dumas, written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and released in 1993. The film stars Johnny Depp, and deals with the dark side of the publishing world. Where organizations and individuals battle a secret war for the possession of forbidden books, especially one that it is said can summon the devil himself, and give great powers to its owner.
The film is one of the strangest in Polanski’s filmography, as the film works in very much the style of a mystery thriller and yet, there are some elements on an atmosphere level that feel completely off. Enhancing the sense of mystery around the movie. More than any other movie, The Ninth Gate could be the closest thing that Polanski has done to his breakthrough hit Rosemary’s Baby, from 1968. As, it also involved the figure of the Devil and his followers as part of the plot.
The Ninth Gate has many mysteries, and the following paragraphs contain spoilers for the entire movie. Read at your own risk.
Does The Book In The Ninth Gate Open The Gates Of Hell?
The film starts with a very grim tone as we see a man writing a letter. Once he finished writing the letter, we see him committing suicide by hanging himself with a rope. Who this man is will be revealed later, but the scenes set the perfect tone and foreshadow many of the things that will come next.
It is here that we are introduced to Dean Corso, played by Johnny Depp. Corso is a book dealer, a specialized one, as he deals in weird tomes and rare collections. Corso isn’t very well estimated by his colleagues in the book collecting world, and we see several examples in which it is plain to see that Corso isn’t really a good person. He is talented for sure and has great knowledge about his work, but he uses this knowledge to deceive and sometimes even deceive his clients.
Later, we see that Corso has been hired by Dr. Boris Balkan, an expert in demon and medieval literature. Corso goes to meet his new client as Balkan is in the middle of a lecture, there, it is the first time we see the blonde woman. Who in the film credits is only referred to as The Girl. The Girl looks back at Corso and both of them start to listen to the lecture. However, Corso falls asleep, clearly, the subject is not of his interest.
Corso finally meets with Balkan, who explains to him the job he has been hired for. Balkan shows Corso his book collection, which has a common subject, The Devil. Balkan then shows Corso his most valued possession, a copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, by Aristide Torchia. Torchia’s works were completely destroyed by the Inquisition, and apparently, only three copies of The Nine Gates survive in current times. Balkan wants to use Corso expertise, so he can check out the other two copies, which are currently part of private collections.
Balkan believes that only one of three copies is real, and the other two are just fake. He wants Corso to check all three and conclude which is the real one and get it to him, no matter the cost. Balkan will pay Corso substantially. Corso of course accepts the offer. From here Corso goes on a quest where he discovers that The Nine Gates could be based on a book written by the Devil himself, and the sinister groups that are, like him, trying to obtain the real copy.
Corso gets into some dangerous situations and even one of his friends gets killed as he tries to keep his copy safe from these dangerous people. As he makes his way to Toledo, Spain, he meets the Ceniza Brothers, who are expert librarians, but also forgers. They teach Corso how to distinguish the real copy from the fake ones. Corso discovers that the pictures inside the three copies of the book are all different, adding to nine variations in total signed by LCF, Lucifer himself, while the rest, the fake ones, are signed by Torchia.
After this discovery, Corso loses his copy and then finds his way to a secret party where devil worshipers are trying to summon the Devil. Balkan appears and gets the copy from the worshipers and then goes to a castle seen in the book pictures where he can finally summon the devil and acquire great powers, including invincibility and eternal life. However, the ritual fails and Balkan dies like the ones before him.
The film finishes with Corso discovering that one of the pictures Balkan used to make the ritual was a forge by the Ceniza brothers, which is why the ritual didn’t work. Corso visits the brothers once again, but they are gone. However, Corso discovers the real picture, which points to another castle. Corso makes his way to the castle and the doors open for him as he is bathed in light and his fate is unknown.
Who is The Girl in The Ninth Gate?
More than any other topic from the film, the nature of The Girl has been a matter of much discussion and speculation. Throughout the movie, The Girl saves Corso many times, and she also begins to act as a sort of guide to him during the second half of the film. Corso clearly establishes a romantic relationship with the woman, even when he doesn’t know her name, and even when she reveals herself to be more than just human, as she displays some supernatural abilities.
When Corso finds the last real picture at the Ceniza Brother’s shop, the real picture contains the illustration of a woman who is very similar to The Girl. This makes The Girl a part of the puzzle and opens a ton of possibilities as to her real identity. The most obvious one is that she is The Devil, in human form. She is looking for a partner, a worthy vessel that can contain her powers, and as she takes Corso under his wing from very early on, it seems that that worthy person is Corso himself.
Corso is deceitful, knowledgeable, and always for his own interests. All of these characteristics make Corso what could be a perfect candidate for the role of The Devil’s partner. However, unlike everybody else who is looking for the book, Corso’s motivation is never power and doesn’t seek it. Corso values knowledge more than anything and stays true to that conviction until the end of the movie when The Devil finally deems someone worthy.
We could say that in the end The Girl was the Devil and without looking for it, Corso became the ultimate Devil’s apprentice. It is a very strange ending, very ambiguous but as the clues come together at the end of the movie, it makes complete sense.