HOME The 9th Gate
A movie directed by Roman Polanski
starring Johnny Depp and Frank Langella
A Complete Spoiler
Ending Explanation

You've just watched the movie but are baffled by the obscure ending. Thought you'd check on the net for an explanation. Found only a few smart-asses who just brag it's not so difficult if you think about it right? So now you're even more annoyed.

The movie simply doesn't explain every detail so there's some guesswork. Maybe the original book does? This movie is not really spooky horror but feels more like a whodunnit. Unlike a whodunnit, there is no detective to sum up and clarify at the end so you're left feeling 'Huh?"

Tell a story to a hundred people and if one of them doesn't understand it you'd think it was his own fault. But if 99 don't get it then you'd think it was bad story-telling. Even with internet resources and scanning back and forth with a video and freeze frame it's hard to work it all out but here's what we've come up with...

Note that this is not a movie review as such!

If you've not yet seen the movie or intend to read the book then you might want to quit this now and come back later.

If you have seen the movie and want the explanation then scroll down...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHORT ANSWER

To fulfill the pact with the devil one needs all nine original authentic illustrations together, have them enacted including walking through the gate indicated in the 9th illustration. The villain, Balkan, failed because he didn't have the authentic 9th illustration. The one he had didn't point to the gate but indicated a fire instead.

By the end, the hero, Carso, is obsessed with the same goal for himself that Balkan was. The final illustration is enacted by him and the (unnamed) girl (a servant of the devil). She later leaves him a note where the true ninth illustration is. He gets this then walks through the gate pointed to in the picture.

 

 

 

LONG ANSWER

The whole thing is shot so full of holes that it makes a net look like something that hasn't got any holes in it. So the best you can hope for is to grasp the main intent...

Firstly, it has to be said that while one could understand someone being deceived into serving the devil it does seem absurdly foolish for anyone to deliberately, consciously, and knowingly, sell their soul and expect everlasting happiness and goodness to come from the source of absolute evil and suffering. Nevertheless...

To fulfill the pact with the devil one needs all nine original authentic illustrations created and signed LCF by Lucifer himself. It has to be assumed they have to be all together in one place, and/or in the possession of one person (the would-be party to the pact).

The original book written by the devil is not available and the book, "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" by Aristede Torchia (spelling not absolutely certain and hereafter referred to as 'A.T.') were only based on it. But (presumably) A.T. transferred the original illustrated pages to his books. He made two copies of each original illustration so he now had three of each. The copies had slight differences to the originals and were initialled AT instead of LCF. He spread all three versions randomly(?) through the three copies of his own book so each book would have some authentic and some false illustrations. That is, for each illustration the original might be in any one of the books while each of the other two books would have only the altered copy of that particular picture. You need all three books to get all the nine original illustrations back together again.

As well as, the foregoing, Balkan indicates in his final scenes that mere possession of the illustrations, while (probably) vital, is not enough. The pictures are actually instructions as to what to do and must be enacted. It is not clear in the movie if or how all of these were done nor if the devil-seeker has to do them himself or be present at the time or later as a witness. Nor indeed, perhaps you don't even need the physical pictures so long as you know what to do? The movie never makes this clear.

Let us look at a description of all nine pictures with Balkan's explanation, the differences defining the real from the false, the actual enactments, plus our comments.

Note that it would be impossible from the movie alone to work all these out - even on home video with freeze frame let alone in the cinema with sometimes only half a second to glimpse some of the pictures! We found some images on the net which are from the original book and even then there is some guesswork.

We have also seen references to a commentary by the director Roman Polanski. This was not on the UK TV broadcast - presumably it is a separate commentary on the dvd or vhs tape? If so, maybe that clarifies things?

We don't have all the captions.

A question mark signifies doubt and uncertainty in our guesswork. There are a lot of question marks.

See also further down for extra comments...

Picture/Difference/Action Balkan

Man on horse travelling towards castle with finger on lips. Caption: Silence is Golden.

3 Turrets - 4 turrets

Balkan's/Carso's journey?

To travel in silence...

Jester approaching door to maze.

Far exit open - bricked up

Carso's journey back and forth?

...by a long and circuituous route,

Man walking road with knapsack. Man with bow and arrow at top. Caption: Venture too far and danger will descend from above.

Saw no comparison in movie but elsewhere the archer might be dark-haired - light haired..

Scaffolding almost falls on Carso on exit from Cenra Bros shop.

to brave the arrows of misfortune,

Man hung by leg on rope plus sword of flames.

Hung by left leg - right leg.

Bernie murdered and hung by leg. Don't recall fire (at that location) though.

to fear neither noose nor fire,

King playing chess with servant and black dog fighting/biting at white dog.

White board - black board

Perhaps Balkan hiring Carso but playing games with him? Dog fight might be Carso and the albino black guy? Seem to recall that Carso bit him.

to play the greatest of all games...

Man crouched over open sack full of coins with Death standing by, waiting to be paid?

No comparison in the movie? No difference in any of the pictures we found on the net either.

Balkan/Carso spared no expense even with death not far away or maybe hiring a killer?

...and win, foregoing no expense...

Man with weapon over kneeling person.

Close up comparison of face of kneeling person but no difference as Carso is looking at the two identical copies and does not yet have the true one. The real difference compared to the authentic illustration is that in one the weapon is a sword wielded by a young, fair-haired man, and the kneeler is a woman; in the other the weapon is a club held by an older man with dark hair and the victim is a man. This difference is not shown in the movie?

Carso beats albino (to death?) on floor with gun butt. Yet the kneeling man is in the phony copies? Maybe it's Balkan choking Kessler or Telfer both of whom are 'low' (wheelchair or kneeling) when killed?

is to walk the vicissitudes of fate...

Man at door with keys

keys in left hand - right hand

The illustrations can be regarded as the keys?

...and gain at last the key...

Naked woman with open book riding many-headed dragon and pointing to gate in castle back-lit by light in sky background.

No comparison in movie (?) but copies show castle on fire and woman NOT pointing.

Girl makes love to carso in front of burning castle then later goes through gate to fulfil enactment whereas Balkan (enacting the false copy) starts fire and does not use gate.

...that will unlock the ninth gate.

In addition, there were some scenes that appeared to be enactments but did not specifically fit any picture such as the tableau of Fargas drowned in the pool and Kessler choked then burned in her wheelchair. There was also the emphasis on the little girl at the station, the Indian taxi driver, the blood smeared on Carso's face - but these might have just been included for effect and to heighten tension. Probably had meaning in the original book.

Finally, the would-be disciple of everlasting damnation in hell must walk through the gate indicated in the 9th illustration. The villain, Balkan, failed because he didn't have the authentic 9th illustration. He also didn't seem to make any effort to walk through any gate because the false picture did not point to any gate. Instead it showed the castle in flames so Balkan lit a fire and probably assumed the flames were the gateway. He was wrong but why did he not burn himself immediately? Maybe the drink he took at the start of his 'ritual' was some potent drug that temporarily masked the pain?

The hero, Carso, is by now obsessed with the same goal for himself of devil's servant or partner. It is clear from the start that he was unscrupulous when he paid an unfair price for the Don Quixote volumes, etc. This is no squeaky-clean hero. He gathers up the illustrations and leaves the burning castle.

Led by the (unnamed) girl, the final illustration is enacted. Possibly the many-headed dragon and rider represents the many faces of lustful sin with the woman in control. It actually has seven heads so maybe it means the seven deadly sins - ie, sin in general. There are indications that the girl is a witch or servant of the devil: the camera lingered over her when first seen at Balkan's lecture while he is actually defining a witch - clue or what. Similarly, In a library, Carso looks at her picture then looks up to see her on a balcony - another hint, if only one was expecting or looking for a hint. Additionally, she occasionally seems to float to Carso's rescue in a supernatural way; keeps appearing and disappearing almost magically, and seems to know about and be guiding events.

The girl later leaves Carso a note on his car windshield as to where the true ninth illustration is at Cenra Bros' shop. It seems they might have removed it from the book and forged a replacement? The twins probably had the expertise and were likely in league with the devil themselves. Carso gets this 9th illustration then walks through the gate pointed to in the picture and lives happily ever after in hell - the source of all joy and goodness? Don't think so! Well, it is a fantasy.

 

SUMMARY

Very good and enjoyable movie but with an extremely disappointing ending. Worth watching anyway but it would be greatly improved by showing and explaining the illustrations better so the audience get the shock of realization and not the blow of baffled puzzlement and disbelief.

 

EXTRA COMMENTS


From: Brice Stratford

The difference between the third engraving is that one shows the archer as having another arrow in his quiver, the other does not.

The difference between the sixth is that in one, Death's hourglass shows all the sand at the top; in the other the sand is all at the bottom.

The seventh engraving also has the difference of a halo on the man striking the praying man, whilst the other does not. Could the seventh engraving be reminiscent of Carso getting smacked unconscious whilst examining Kessler's book (he is low, sitting)?