Ninth Gate Opens
The Ninth Gate is the
movie version of The Dumas Club, a book in which the quest for raising
the devil is interwoven in a rich decor of esotericism and ancient books
- some of whom indeed set out to awaken the devil - or lead him back
Ninth Gate was the film adaptation of The Dumas Club, written by Arturo
Pérez-Reverte. The central quest of the film and the book is…
another book: “The Nine Doors To the Kingdom of Shadows”,
also known as “De Umbrarum Regis Novum Portis”, the "Nine
Gates" for short. The book is written by one Aristide Torchia in
Venice in 1666 and contains nine woodcut engravings rumoured to be copied
from the apocryphal Delomelanicon, a book purportedly written by Lucifer
himself. The Nine Doors to the Kingdom of Shadows is said to contain
within its pages knowledge to raise the devil. The author was burned,
along with all his works in 1667. Three copies are known to survive,
one with Baroness Freida Ungern, one in the Fargas collection, and one
last known to be in the possession of Enrique Taillefer, but recently
sold to Boris Balkan.
Whereas the latter characters will immediately be deemed fictional,
more research is required to find out whether the book itself of the
Delomelanicon is an invention of the author – or fact. In short,
both are fictional, as is Torchia, the author of the Nine Gates. But
such a quick classification of the core of the mystery would miss out
on some major points of interest of both the book and the film.
First, the name of the source, Delomelanicon, is a mixture of two Greek
words: delo, to summon; melas, black, dark. The methodology to summon
Lucifer is said to be extremely old, visible in the Turis Papyrus (dated
to ca. 1300 BC) and quoted in the Corpus Hermeticum. For the experts,
the latter would be a give-way to its fictional character as the Hermeticum
could not be further removed from demon worship. As to the Turis Papyrus,
it does not exist, but was probably derived from the well-known Turin
Papyrus. The Turin Papyrus of Kings, also known as the Turin Canon,
is a hieratic manuscript of the 19th dynasty of Egypt, listing the kings
of Egypt from the earliest times to the reign of Ramses II (1279–13
BC), under whom it was written. Thus, not only does the Turis resemble
the Turin in name, but also in date of origin.
fictional work of the Delomelanicon or the Nine Gates is cleverly surrounded
by books that do exist. At the same time, the book is also full of genuine
historical characters. Thus, there is Roger Bacon and Giordano Bruno…
but Reverte leaves it to the expert reader’s insecurity to see
whether he will immediately recognize the Nine Gates as a fictional
invention, or something the expert might not have known about.
One of the existing books is Asclemandres, the book that enables one
to “face the light”. This is worked into the story on the
opening page of the Nine Gates, where the inscription reads SIC LUCEAT
LUX. In the book, this is translated as “Thus shines the Light”,
in the movie as “Thus let the Light shine”.
Throughout the movie, the entry codes of the “bad guy” Boris
Balkan is 666 – the number of the devil. As such, Reverte has
the book written in 1666, in Venice. Aristide Torchia, though fictional,
is created from the life of Giordano Bruno… and Reverte gives
his creation real life by stating how Torchia’s life is identical
to that of Bruno: both were arrested in Venice, burnt at Campo del Fiori,
Torchia in February 1677, Bruno in February 1600. Though Bruno and Bacon
were all interested in magic and esoterism, it would be incorrect to
state that they tried to summon the devil… but no-one has taken
Reverte to task on that confabulation.
writes that Roger Bacon claimed that the book was owned by King
Solomon and that copies of the book were burnt in 1350 AD on orders
of Pope Innocent VI. He is therefore giving the book historical
credibility by linking it with known people – though inventing
a book burning… Reverte thus uses similar techniques to
e.g. Dan Brown in some of his world bestsellers, including The
Da Vinci Code. Though Reverte will not have tasted the wealth
of Brown, at the same time he has never – and so many other
authors – come in for criticism for inventing a book and
then surrounding that fiction with a series facts… which
is exactly what Brown has done in his work.
Brown has used the “Priory of Sion” as the secret
society that has continued to preserve the secrets; Reverte invents
the “Order of the Silver Serpent” as the society that
throughout the centuries has tried to call upon Lucifer, in the
tradition of Torchia. There is an actual “Order of the Silver
Serpent”, but only in computer games – not as a group
of devil worshippers who have maintained the traditions established
by Torchia in the 17th century.
book is called The Dumas Club, but the figure of Alexandre Dumas
is absent from the movie – no doubt having been found too
complex to fit into the scenario. Reverte has carefully constructed
his book, so that almost all of the principal and peripheral characters
are counterparts of characters in Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.
Parallels are also drawn between those characters and actual persons
who existed in Dumas's time. Many of Dumas's 257 volumes of novels,
memoirs and other writings are listed, as are the names of some
of his 27 known mistresses and 6 legitimate and illegitimate children.
Amongst them, no doubt, some must have been interested in the
occult – if not devil worship, as Reverte alleges.
Dumas (1802-1870) wrote Three Musketeers, but also The Man in
the Iron Mask and the Count of Monte Christo. A musketeer was
a member in the group of bodyguards who protected the French king
in the 17th and 18th centuries. The book, like so many others
of Dumas, was a historical novel: set in France’s past,
to exalt it and bring it to the attention of the general public.
The Three Musketeers is a historical romance that tells the story
of a young adventurer, D'Artagnan, whose life changed when he
left his provincial hometown for Paris, and became friends with
three Musketeers – Athos, Aramis, and Porthos. Together
they fight against the evil Cardinal Richelieu for justice, love
and friendship. “One for all – All for one.”
Another well-known historical “adaptation” was The
Man in the Iron Mask, about the unwanted twin brother of the king,
Philippe, imprisoned in Bastille. His face is covered with an
iron mask to hide his true identity.
The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo were both written
within the space of two years, 1844-45. Dumas was among the first,
together with Honoré de Balzac and Eugène Sue, to
fully use the possibilities of the “roman feuilleton”,
the serial novel. Dumas' works are fast-paced adventure tales,
not faithful to historical facts, but blend skilfully history
and fiction – which is exactly what Reverte accomplishes
in his own novel – and which is of course what Dan Brown
in The Da Vinci Code performs as well.
Before 1843 Dumas wrote fifteen plays. Historical novels brought
Dumas enormous fortune, but he could spend money faster than he
made it. He produced some 250 books with his 73 assistants, especially
with the history teacher Auguste Maquet. Dumas earned roughly
200,000 francs per year and received an annual sum of 63,000 francs
for 220,000 lines from the newspapers La Presse and the Constitutionel.
The outlines for the books came from Maquet, who provided the
historical setting, even the theme of the “novelistic idea”
inserted into history. Dumas would then write the story, sometimes
in what critics have labelled as “bad writing”. But
Dumas’ audience constantly had to be kept wanting for more
– and thus Dumas greatly contributed to cliff-hanger scenes,
so that readers would buy the next instalment.
readers and viewers have become inspired by the woodcuts that appear
in The Ninth Gate. They give extra credibility to the movie, as well
as intrigue. The woodcut engravings in the novel were designed by the
Spanish artist Francisco Sole. The engravings have a tarot-like quality
and are rich in symbolism, which is the core of their appeal.
A lot of the engravings tend to become real: the hanging man, the game
players, the castle, etc. Hence the reference on the postcard, from
Balkan to the baroness “I found it”… Balkan has been
able to identify the castle to which the Nine Gates refers, from which
the Ninth Gate can be opened.
Like many movies, the movie made use of elegant locations, such as the
Parisian Hotel Cayre and the Château de Ferrieres, or the Ville
de Pontoise, all in the general vicinity of Paris. But it is the castle
of Puivert that is the castle where Balkan will try to raise the devil
– and where Corso will enter through the Ninth Gate.
The fortress exists and is recorded at the start of Cathar crusade,
the onslaught of the Catholic Church as the heretics in the South of
France. Puivert sits close to the Pyrenees, in the region of the other
Cathar castles, including the famous Montségur. Whereas Montségur
became the last stronghold of the Cathars, Puivert fell in 1210 after
a siege of only three days. Simon de Montfort then gave it to his companion,
Lambert de Thury, who held it until at least 1213. As a Cathar castle,
it sits within an esoteric tradition, which is linked with both the
Grail and Lucifer. In the 1930s, the German author Otto Rahn wrote a
book about the Cathars, entitled “Lucifer’s Court”.
The Church saw the Cathars as heretics – devil worshippers. The
Cathars saw the material world as the world created by Lucifer. Each
side thus identified the other with evil – which was nothing new
at the time and has not changed since.
talks about other intriguing books that sit in the same tradition
as the fictionalised The Nine Gates. There are references to the
La Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,
published in Venice in 1545 and the Compendium Maleficarum by
Francesco Maria Guazzo. Both books must have inspired Reverte
when he fabricated The Nine Gates. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili
is one of the most puzzling, enigmatic and fascinating books ever
conceived. Since its publication in 1499, it has surprised its
readers with its vast knowledge of architecture and landscape
and garden design, but also engineering, painting and sculpture.
Though its author is officially unknown, it is now believed that
the book was written by Leon Battista Alberti. The book is, however,
not about devil worship – largely, it is a book about the
right of women to express their sexuality – and eroticism
in general. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is also known for its
woodcuts, 174 in total. They were a primary source for Renaissance
ideas on both buildings and plants.
Francesco Maria Guazzo was however an Italian Demonologist. Guazzo
wrote his work in 1608, when he was an authority on witchcraft.
In his Compendium Maleficarum, he drew up eleven headings under
which witchcraft was then held to consist. These include a pact
with the devil, a disregard for the Church, trampling the cross,
etc. They allegedly also promise to seduce others into the worship
of Satan and are baptized in the name of Lucifer, Belzebuth and
Identical to Balkan’s ritual at the end of the movie, the
Devil was also said to draw a circle on the ground and all the
candidates reaffirm their oaths to him. They ask Satan to take
their names out of the book of Christ and to instead inscribe
them in his own book.
the figure of Balkan is easily identifiable as the millionaire
seeking more, the role of Corso and his female “aide”
– Irene Adler – is more of an enigma. Towards the
end, it also becomes clear that the man on a genuine quest is
not Balkan, but Corso.
But who is the girl? Lucifer? If she is, why would Balkan need
to raise her, as she is already there? Or perhaps Balkan’s
ritual will enslave the devil – her? This would put the
devil at his command – he would control Lucifer.
Some evidence suggests she is the devil. She is in love with Corso
and in the book, she gives him a copy of a book called The Devil
in Love. She at one stage identifies herself as the devil and
in the book, Corso believes she is the devil. She also states
that she once wrestled with an angel and makes references to the
Fall of the angels from Heaven – taking their side…
But at no time does she do anything to actually harm people. She
is not evil; she is a protector, an advisor for Corso… but
in the end, the killings and other crimes are Corso’s. Whatever
her exact role, her role is to protect Corso. Unlike Balkan, Corso
will enter the ninth gate. As such, she is the caretaker of the
Ninth Gate. In the woodcut – the ninth woodcut that has
been removed from all three copies –, this is symbolized
by her depicted as riding a dragon, a creature with several heads:
the Whore of Babylon, mentioned in the Christian Bible as foreshadowing
the entrance of the Antichrist, etc.
entering through the Ninth Gate, what does this make of Corso? Is he
the devil, without knowing it, the girl one of his minions, sent to
guide him back to hell? She does possess supernatural power, but it
is clear that she never dictates anything to Corso.
Johnny Depp stated: you begin to like Corso towards the end, though
he has turned out to be a cruel, cold man, willing to do anything
to meet his goal. Throughout the book and movie, the reader or
the viewer is largely ignorant of Corso’s role – and
it seems Corso himself is no different. The reader and the character
are too focused on everyone else, each of which seems more important
than Corso… but in the end, only he will go through the
gate… and the only person in the story who prepared amd
helped him for this was the mysterious Irene. The woodcuts in
The Nine Gates made by Lucifer himself are signed LCF… Corso’s
first name (in the book) is Lucas Corso… Initials: LC…