Artisan Entertainment/R.P. Productions/Orly Films/TF1 Films Production/Bac Films/Canal+/Kino Vision/Origen Producciones Cinematograficas S.A./Vía Digital/Canal+ España, France/Spain/USA, 1999
Director: Roman Polanski
Writer: Arturo Pérez-Reverte, John Brownjohn, Enrique Urbizu, Roman Polanski
Cast: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford, Jack Taylor, José López Rodero, Tony Amoni, James Russo, Willy Holt, Allen Garfield, Jacques Dacqmine, Joe Sheridan, Rebecca Pauly, Catherine Benguigui, Maria Ducceschi, Jacques Collard, Dominique Pozzetto, Emanuel Booz, Lino Ribeiro de Sousa, Asil Raïs, Bernard Richier, Marinette Richier, Jane Bradbury, Samuel de Luze, Christopher Goodman, Diane Hawkins, Lee Michelsen, Diane Pernet, Jacquelyn Toman
I don’t remember exactly when I by chance stumbled upon Arturo Pérez-Revertes book El Club Dumas, but I was amazed by it. I couldn’t put it down but had to drop everything else and finish it. I grew up before the Internet, before VHS, width only one (and later two) channels on TV, so books was the only possible escape from reality. Therefore Corso’s world was my world to. I knew all those books by heart and got all the references. I tried to get my 25 years younger girlfriend to read it but she didn’t get it at all. She never read The Three Musketeers or Sherlock Holmes so on her the magic was lost.
When I heard El Club Dumas was being filmed, directed by Roman Polanski who is one of my favourite directors, and starring Johny Depp… What can I say about Johnny Depp? Well, I named my son after one of his characters, so I guess You understand I had great expectations on this film to say the least. Media made a big thing out of Polanski returning to satanism 50 years after Rosemary’s Baby.
Dean Corso is an expert on rare books and how to find them. One of his clients, Boris Balkan, who has the worlds biggest collection of books on Satan has got his hands on the very rare “The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows” from 1666 by Torchia, who was burned alive by the Holy Inquisition along with all his writings. Only three copies still exist, but Balkan claims two of these are forgerys and he want Corso to find out if his copy is the authentic one or not, and if it’s not he wants him to do whatever he has to, at whatever the cost, to get the one that is for him. In this book is a number of engravings. Torchia was supposed to have gotten these engravings from Satan himself and according to the myth they form a puzzle which if solved reveils how to conjure the Devil. Balkan got the book from a collector who hung himself just a couple of days later. The other two copies is in Portugal and France, and Corso takes the book with him for comparising.
The book is wort somewhere around a million dollars and Corso is getting paranoid. He believes someone is following him, this weird girl with socks that don’t match is turning up where ever he goes, his appartment gets broken into and Liana Telfer, the widow of the person Balkan bought the book from, tries to buy it back from Corso and even suggests he could stage a robbery and keep the money for himself. When he refuses she attacks him. He left the book whith a friend who turns up murdered, but whoever did it didn’t find the book.
In Europe Corso discovers slight differencies between Balkans book and the other two. The girl seems to have followed him as she keeps turning up, and there are several near accidents which could be attempts to kill or scare Corso to part with the book. Corso learns that when Torchia was burnt a secret order was formed to preserv the book from the church. This order still exists even if it has somehow degenerated into a social club for bored millionaires and celebreties staging orgys. He also learns that Liana Telfer is a member.
Both owners of the other two copies turn up dead, their books gone, and Balkans copy is stolen. Corso suspects Liana Telfer is behind it all and goes after her to try to get Balkans book back.
So, when I first got to watch the film I was actually a bit disapointed. It wasn’t the fantastic story Arturo Pérez-Reverte had penned. It was only part of the book, and a lot of the names and charachters was changed and simplified. Also the last part was all changed and didn’t really have very much to do with El Club Dumas at all. Pérez-Reverte has said “Polanski’s film isn’t bad, except maybe the last half hour. Evidently it is not my novel.” and that about sums up my feellings. As long as You don’t compare it to the novel the movie is actually very good. I’ve watched it quite a few times and everytime it seems to grow on me.
My verdict: 10 out of 10.
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