In 1999, Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate was released. Based on Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s novel “The Club Dumas“, the movie followed antique book hunter Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) who has been hired by eccentric millionaire Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to verify the authenticity of a recently acquired Satanic tome dubbed “The Nine Gates”. So begins an international journey of mystery, intrigue, murder, and supernatural oddness that is surprisingly charming and entertaining. It’s a movie that I don’t often see get enough credit, which is why I want to talk about a feature that may slip by many people upon their viewing: the score by composer Wojciech Kilar.
Kilar is probably most well known to the horror audience for his work on Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a wonderful score that embodies the age, romance, excitement, terror, and epic nature of the infamous vampire story.
But the lesser-seen gem The Ninth Gate has an equally brilliant score, one that mixes beauty and terror with a delightfully cheeky and playful quality that embraces the absurdity of the movie while highlighting the mystic air that pervades throughout.
Corso’s theme reminds me of bumbling detectives who stumble and flounder yet are absolutely endearing. This matches his character who, while clever and fascinating, also manages to get himself caught in situations that are out of his control. But tracks like “The Ninth Gate” or “Liana’s Death” remind the viewer that what they are watching is a fun film with a blasphemously serious plot. After all, raising the Devil is not an event to be held lightly.
That’s where Kilar’s brilliance comes into play. I firmly believe that the reason I enjoy The Ninth Gate so much is because of how his score moves the story along. I can go from my lips pursed in suspense to an ear-to-ear grin in the span of moments, all thanks to the wit of the music.
If you haven’t given the music a chance, I highly recommend picking up Silva Screen’s black vinyl edition. There’s also a flame variant they pressed but that had some pressing issues, so it’s safer to go the route that will get you the best audio experience.
And if you haven’t seen the movie, definitely pick up a copy on Amazon.