Monday, June 1, 2020

The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows

Every time I watch Roman Polanski's "The Ninth Gate," I find myself more and more fascinated by the lore behind the main plot device in the film.  That device is "De Umbrarum Regni Novem Portis" or better known as  "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows.." Like other fictional grimoires, I find this one especially intriguing.  Woodcuts within are devious and yet tend to hold one's attention.  I decided that I had to have this book in my collection.

I looked around the internet and prices range from $40 to $400 depending on the quality that you may be looking for. I looked both on Etsy and on eBay. After doing a general Google search, I found one result that caught my eye.  That result was from an online, on-demand bookseller. Weighing the options, I decided to purchase it there.  Here is a link in case you wish to check it out. 

Get The Ninth Gate BlueRay (Affiliate Link)

While no means a faithful weathered copy of the film prop. I decided that this would still be a nice addition.

Unboxing the devilish book.

What makes this book so notorious?  Throughout the film, "The Ninth Gate," Roman Polanski, sets the film up by introducing us to the main character Dean Corso. Played by Johnny Depp, one might say that he is the protagonist, however, I leave that title for his character is reserved as the jury is still out.  

Dean Corso is a book buyer, seller, and authenticator.  He is summoned by Boris Balkan who is fiendishly played by actor Frank Langella ("Dracula," "Lolita"). He wants Corso, to "authenticate" his copy of the "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows.." It is at this point that Corso reveals his knowledge of this book which is a surprise to Balkin. Corso, "Sure. Venice, 1623. The author and printer was Aristide 
Torchia, burned by the Holy Inquisition, together with all his works. Only three copies survived."  Thus signaling that the book must be evil as it's author must be evil.
However, Balkin believes that only one copy is real.  

Thus. Dean Corso sets out on his quest.  The first person on his list to interview is the widow of the former owner. Liana Telfer, a young woman in her mid 30's oozing sexuality,
in comparison to her husband Andrew Telfer who must have been at least twice her age. 
Who quietly wrote a letter and hung himself on in his study a few weeks before, which takes place at the beginning of the film. She seems to be a bit surprised that her husband has sold the book. After some pleasantries, they get down to business. Of course, she wants to know who owns the book currently. She mentioned that her husband bought the book in Spain while they were on vacation.  While Depp's character didn't get all the information he was looking for, he did realize that there was something that Telfer was hiding. This would not be the last time the two meet. 

Conducting the next part of his research takes place at the library, which is where Corso gets a glimpse of the mysterious Green Eyed Girl. Like a subtle case of Deja Vu, she is there, and then she is not. Unnerving he continues consulting the arcane tomes until it is late at night.  Arriving home only to find it ransacked, he decides that something evil is afoot. 

Death will soon follow. At this point, Corso is sure that the book means trouble and it needs to be kept safe.  He decides to hide it with his book broker (fence?). 

Once again Corso encounters Telfer, she shows up at his place and promptly seduces him.  She wants the book. This scene alone is hilarious and one of the few times that humor is injected into this serious dark film.  Certainly, a scene to look for when watching this film.

Bernie is killed apparently for the book, but it was well hidden. 

This film plays out much like a detective novel. Corso is the sleuth, yet he already seems sets up to fail. Much of this film takes place in Europe as Polanski is unable to come to the United States due to his statutory rape conviction. 

 "Books of this type often contain little puzzles."

The Book
In Toledo. Spain, Corso meets the Ceniza twin brothers, who clue him on the mysteries of the book and more importantly, the woodcuts in the book. As Pablo, one of the brothers, says, "Books of this type often contain little puzzles."

Like the woodcut reproductions in the version, the books are signed either by the original author and printer, Aristide Torchia, or by his supposed co-author Lucifer. This was notated by the initial "LCF."

Corso also finds out, contrary to Liana Telfer's insistence that it was her husband's favorite book, that it was actually she who wanted it. Now he understands the fierceness in her eyes when she attacked him after the seduction back in his apartment.

The book that this film is based on "The Club Dumas," written in 1993 by Spanish novelist Arturo Pérez-Reverte. His book is very detailed and has a lot to do with the French writer Alexandre Dumas (of the "Three Musketeers," "The Corsican Brothers," and "The Count of Monte Cristo Cristo" fame). Corso's search for  De Umbrarum Regni Novem Portis ("Of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows").takes him to  Madrid (Spain), Sintra (Portugal), Paris (France) and Toledo (Spain).

Let me know what you think of the film, the Lulu book and, or my video on the subject.

Movie Data

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Horror
Year:   1999
Starring:  Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, Frank Langella, Emmanuelle Seigner
Director:  Roman Polanski
Producer(s)  Roman Polanski
Writer(s):  Arturo Pérez-Reverte, John Brownjohn, Enrique Urbizu, and Roman Polanski

Rating:  R

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