Eric Serra – The Fifth Element (1997)
What was the movie about?
A being called the Anti-Life or the Great Evil or Mr. Shadow appears every 5,000 years to destroy all life (hence the name). A race of aliens offers to help defeat this being with the help of a weapon called the Fifth Element. Unfortunately, before they can return with the weapon, they are ambushed and their spaceship destroyed. The weapon is thought to be lost.
A single survivor is found amongst the debris. Her DNA is unlike anything ever seen before, but she’s having memory problems (probably because she was basically regrown from a hand). She escapes from the medical facility and lands (literally) in the lap of our hero, Bruce Willis. I mean Korben Dallas. He falls in love with her and names her Leeloo.
Now Korben, Leeloo, the host of a galactic radio show, a priest, and his assistant must defeat the ultimate evil before it consumes all life! There are spaceships and flying cars! Crazy hair styles! Wild aliens! Bruce Willis before he started looking really tired! And Gary-flippin-Oldman. Why haven’t you seen this yet?
Is it worth watching?
The Fifth Element is, in my opinion, a stunning vision of a future that might be if Blade Runner doesn’t get us first. I love this movie. I owned the soundtrack before I’d seen the movie. I owned the DVD before I had access to a DVD player. For my 30th birthday, my wife rented a movie theatre for a midnight showing of it, which I loved not just because I never got to see it in theatres but also because the action of the movie kicks off on my birthday – just a few hundred years to go. I think this movie is 100 times better than Leon: The Professional and that is a damn near perfect movie in my opinion. My child may be named after a character in this movie.
I am trying to subtly let you know that I am a little bit biased in favor of this film.
In terms of style, the closest movie that’s come to it has been Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, also directed by Luc Besson, which is one of the least interesting movies I’ve ever watched. Therefore, it’s not just style…it’s substance too!
Where Blade Runner was a dystopian nightmare, where it always rains and nobody can ever be happy, this presents a future of dark vision of hope. Governments are still waging bloody wars and politicians are still concerned about their image first and foremost. Corporations and the wealthiest people hold all the power and unrivalled decadence. But even the lowest of the low still has a reason to dance.
I will never not watch The Fifth Element. It is one of my feel-good stand-by’s I watch when I’m sick or feeling down. If you haven’t watched it before, give it a try. If you have watched it before, why not watch it again? I am.
Which is better: the Movie or the Soundtrack?
Unquestionably, the movie is better than the soundtrack. In the case of Maximum Overdrive the AC/DC soundtrack transcended the movie. Here, the soundtrack is more of a mood-stabilizer: floating where the scenes are lighthearted, ominous when bad guys are on the screen, soothing when love is in the air…
The album is all original music composed by Eric Serra, and it’s a mix of modern and classical sound. Instead of just orchestral music, Serra blends in electronic music and samples, making it futuristic but recognizable. There’s some soft rock in there – that I didn’t appreciate very much when I first started listening, but it has grown on me – and the wildest opera I’ve ever heard.
The soundtrack doesn’t really make a lot of sense without the context of the movie. I love it, but I admit that I love it because of the emotional connection I have for the film. In my last year of school, I used to listen to it to wind down at the end of the day and wake up to “The Diva Dance”. There may have been a couple of times when I wooed my girlfriend with this playing in the background, and I’m not saying that it definitely worked, but she did marry me, so, you know, draw your own conclusions. (It totally works).
Yeah But What Else
Speaking of opera… man, that scene. The transition from ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ to ‘The Diva Dance’ is one of the most original musical performances since the Star Wars Cantina. Famously, Inva Mula (the opera singer who did the singing in the movie) told Serra that his composition was impossible for people to sing because the human voice couldn’t change notes that quickly. She sang the notes and then they were digitally remastered together for the performance.
Then this happened, and it’s beautiful.