Continuing today’s Johnny Depp festival, I watched The Ninth Gate the other day. Considered at its time as the fading of a once impressive director, Polanski then went on and won an Oscar with his next film. Which may give us pause to re-evaluate this hokey-hunt the devil potboiler.

Actually what does give you even more pause to re-evaluate it is the success of The Da Vinci Code. The Ninth Gate (book collector hires Depp to investigate a book WRITTEN BY THE DEVIL) has the same kind of structure where a shady academic tramps round Europe with a mysterious girl looking for clues but finding only DEATH. It gives a hint what the film version of the Da Vinci Code with Hanks will be like. There is even an albino in it. The film is too long, with too many fake endings and a real lack of conviction about what it is actually about: the film does not even commit to the truth of its central artifact. Can you conjure the Devil up with this book? Or is it just an expensive way of getting a few rich people to kill each other constantly? Devilish I guess.

But one cannot help but compare The Ninth Gate with Rosemary’s Baby, which does do a Devil reveal – twice. A much better psychological picture, the first rubber suited devil would still be consistent with Rosemary’s delusional state later in the film (the final reveal is a bit disappointing therefore). What lets down The Ninth Gate (lack of conclusion on Devil) is the opposite of what lets down Rosemary’s Baby. The reason for this is simple: you care about Rosemary, you don’t care about Depp’s Corso. His first scene is fleecing a family of a mint copy of Don Quixote, he is not a very nice man. For all the twinkle Depp brings to the role, Polanski is happy to follow the bland euro-thriller formula. And Polanski’s direction itself is dull, stilted and feels very similar to seventies films with a similar theme. Choirs = evil.

The film did make me wonder though, about revealing the devil and the devils place in theology. So I started this slow burning thread on ILE about people who have played the devil. The question raised in films with the Devil in is about the role of God in all this. This kind of pro-active devil seems to operate with the okay of God, running rampant around the world causing mischief. But the mischief is usually so convoluted and mild that there is no surprise that his counterpart tolerates it. Making the devil flesh neuters him. Except of course in Rosemary’s Baby where he is clearly very fertile.