The Fifth Element on the Big Screen


Having always occupied the minds of philosophers, astrologers, scientists and inventors, the four elements of nature: earth, water, air, and fire; inevitably invaded the minds of movie makers. The mysterious powers and connotations of the elements inspired screen writers and directors to create a number of remarkable works, one of which is Luc Besson’s 1997 production “The Fifth Element”.

The plot of the American movie starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman and Milla Jovovich takes place in a comic Sci-Fi action setting, dated around 250 years in the future. The storyline of the movie revolves around “a mission to save humanity”, involving conflicts between different parties including humans, aliens, monsters, among others, ending with a breathtaking triumph of good over evil.

In the movie, a secret fifth element that visits Earth every 5000 years to protect it from Evil through stones that represent the four elements of nature is unveiled in an archaeological excavation during the 1910s. The alien human-friend Mondoshawans take the stones away, promising to return with them before the coming Evil attack expected in the 23rd century. The secret, carved on the walls of an ancient Egyptian temple, is passed from one priest to a successor throughout time, ending up with Father Vito Cornelius and his student David.

The Mondoshawans keep their promise; however, during their journey back to Earth with the stones and the fifth element, Evil uses the greedy Dr. Zorg and the mercenary alien Mangalores to bomb their spacecraft. A team of scientists use the DNA of the remains of the Fifth Element to rebuild the perfect being Leeloo, who escapes and stumbles upon the taxi of Korben Dallas.

Dr. Zorg, who seeks to profit from the chaos that Evil brings, and his alien mercenaries fight to retrieve the stones and avoid the protection of Leeloo. Having become unwittingly involved in the battle, the skilled taxi driver and former elite Commando Major Korben Dallas falls in love with Leeloo and decides to help her find Father Cornelius and retrieve the stones to save the planet.

The movie highlights the importance of the four elements of nature representing matter in our life through their symbolic role in fulfilling the mission of saving humanity. However, it also stresses that they are worth nothing without goodness and love. Leeloo, the perfect being representing the Fifth Element, fails at the beginning to play her role in protecting Earth; during the short period she spends on Earth, she realizes that “everything [humans] create, [they] use to destroy”. Only when empowered by the good deeds and feelings of Major Korben Dallas, she manages, alongside him, to fulfill the mission and save life on Earth.

Although the movie was not a major hit at the box office, ranking 26 in a sample of 100 movies shown in 1997, it was even nominated for an Oscar.


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