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The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

By Patrick Samuel • May 3rd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Columbia Pictures

Original release: May 7th, 1997
Running time: 126 minutes

Director: Luc Besson
Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Cast: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Milla Jovovich, Luke Perry

The Fifth Element

By the mid 1990’s Luc Besson had become one of my favourite writers and directors with cinematic masterpieces such as The Big Blue (1988), Nikita (1990) and Léon (1994). His visual style combined with an astounding ability to merge action and dialogue to create something affecting made him a filmmaker to keep an eye on. With The Fifth Element I had no idea what to expect but the unexpected.

The film opens with a prologue that tells of an alien race, the Mondoshawan, who build an ancient temple on Earth to house mystic stones that represent the elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. There’s also a Fifth Element, a Supreme Being. When all five elements are combined they form Divine Light which can be used to defeat Great Evil. The Mondoshawan, return to Earth in 1914 and remove Fifth Element but promise the humans who guard the elements that they will return it.

From there the story then shifts to the 23rd century where Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) is going about his daily business until Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) falls onto his flying taxi after leaping off the ledge of a building where she was being held. Leeloo is none other than the Fifth Element in human form, retrieved after the Mondoshawan ship that was bringing her back to Earth was destroyed during an ambush by shape-shifting Mangalores working for the insane and creepy Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman). He in turn is working for the Great Evil.

Rather reluctantly, Korben agrees to help Leeloo find the guardians of the remaining elements and the key that unlocks their power. But it was never going to be as easy as handing her over and then getting on with his day because with Zorg out to create chaos in the universe each step Leeloo takes to accomplish her task brings her closer to him.
The Fifth Element

With its zany cast of characters, including Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod, a colourful talk show host with a weakness for the ladies who makes Prince look pale by comparison; The Fifth Element mixes sci-fi, adventure, action and comedy with a dash of romance and mysticism. Along with Roland Emmerich’s Stargate (1994) it really science fiction movies into a different realm although it’s clear to see it draws on visuals from Metropolis (1927) the same way Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) did.

The sprawling futuristic city depicted in The Fifth Element isn’t the only homage to Fritz Lang’s expressionist classic. Author and screenwriter Dominique Mainon makes an interesting comparison to Metropolis in one of The Fifth Element’s most memorable scenes:

“The scene where a machine reconstructs Leeloo underneath a plastic dome, using her perfect cells to replicate her body into its complete form, is visually reminiscent of the famous twenties silent fiction film Metropolis, where Maria (Brigitte Helm) is encased under a similar dome while being transformed. She is even depicted wearing similar “thermal bandages”.”¹

  • (1) Dominique Mainon, James Ursini, The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women on Screen (2006) Limelight Editions

Indeed the scenes do bear similarities but while Metropolis has endured as a classic for its visual style and Marxist themes, The Fifth Element has gone on to become a cult classic for its action, special effects and in some circles, its feminist angle where Leeloo defies expectations that a vessel of immense power would take the form of a man.

It’s truly an impressive film with many moments that stand out, including The Diva Dance segment. As for Besson, this was the last of the films he directed that I really enjoyed, but one that I still hugely admire for the way it mixes the old with the new.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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