The plot of this supernatural thriller centers on rogue book dealer Dean Corso and his descent into an extreme spiral of murder and occultist excess. Effectively it is guy meets Satanists, guy envies Satanists, guy competes for audience with Satan.
Corso's forte is the opportunistic acquisition of rare books. This he does either speculatively, or as an agent for clients. A wealthy New York publisher, Boris Balkan, sends him on a mission to compare a work entitled "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" with two other existing copies located in Europe. Newly in Balkan's possession in disturbing circumstances, it is a work reputedly derived from one written by Satan. Balkan wants to establish its authenticity and when Corso compares the engravings from all three books he discovers anomalies.
The images in the engravings represent nine thresholds of a supplicant's rites of passage, and they also mirror Corso's progress through the scenes of the film. The differences are the missing pieces of a puzzle that will allow one petitioner to summon Lucifer by ritual. Balkan wants the engravings from all three to solve the mystery while using Corso as his proxy. The latter fears for his life because wealthy contestants have lethal intent to obtain a copy.
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Directed by Roman Polanski
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