How Luc Besson conforms to and subverts the science fiction Genre in his 1997 film “The Fifth Element”

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Last updated: April 3, 2019

Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is a unique film. It defies most traditional aspects of the science fiction genre but at the same time sticks to the common plot of most sci-fi films; to save the world from evil and so on.Bruce Willis plays Korben Dallas. He is an ex- fighter pilot and is now a New York Taxi flyer who has been asked to save the world from evil which appears every 5000 years. To do this he places Leeloo, the fifth element, in the centre of four stones, the other elements, which he has rescued from an android opera singer. As the archetypal sci-fi hero, he is rugged, sexy and muscular in appearance and at the same time he is fearless, quick-witted and smart. He has a sharp, ironic sense of humour which comes across strongly at one point when he tells a mugger how to load a gun.Unlike the hero who generally does conform to typicality, Leeloo, played by Milla Jovovich is an entirely new concept of sci-fi heroine.

She is a super-natural being, the Fifth Element. Apart from anything else, her appearance is striking. Her classic, model-like beauty and white skin is contrasted by her almost fluorescent orange hair.What makes The Fifth element unlike any other film in its genre is the fact that it is so visually mesmerising from start to finish.

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This is done not only by the use of amazing special effects but by Besson’s comic vision of the 23rd century. The film starts in Egypt in 1914. The setting is clear and grand in contrast to three hundred years later in New York when high-rise buildings are circled by swarms of flying taxis. This undermines one’s preconception of a setting in other science fiction films where the mise-en-sc�ne reflects a negative, miserable vision of the future. For example, Ridley Scott’s future is always bleak and dark such as in Blade Runner or Alien. Technology is not always perfect. Things break and electronics fail.

His spacecrafts are filthy, his streets smoky, nothing works. What is particularly quirky is Korben Dallas’s apartment. The space is maximised by the use of built-in sliding convertable appliances.To accompany the extraordinary sets, Jean Paul Gaultier designed the eccentric costumes for The Fifth Element. Probably the most remarkable of which was that of Ruby Rohd. To match the radio DJ’s zany and loud personality, Gaultier designed him an outrageous, flamboyant leopard skin dress and an off the wall hairstyle.

Leeloo too had somewhat wacky outfits; one made entirely of a few white bandages, possibly to attract another type of viewer to the film, and another unique one with orange plastic braces. The costume in The Fifth Element certainly does not conform to the science fiction genre.One of the evil characters in the film is Zorg, played by Gary Oldman. His behaviour is humorous and powerful, he has a dangerous personality and enjoys being evil. His appearance resembles that of Hitler and so do many of his characteristics. He is self reliant and says “If you want a job done, always do it yourself.

” He essentially is the typical Sci-fi villain.Messages that are given are that time is not important, only life. Also that “powerful counts for absolutely nothing” because Zorg needs some goodness, humanity or love. The basic message is that the human race will survive because of love. (It did however take a lot of action and running around for Dallas to save the world!)Luc Besson’s vision for the film was not to make a deep, serious film with a dark message and twisted plot laced with intricate human emotions.

Instead he has succeeded in making a fun family film. I imagine he has therefore let the story-line be a sci-fi clich� on purpose so as to make room for the comedy and amazing visual display. In conclusion, The Fifth Element conforms to the science fiction genre in the sense that it has a basic sci-fi plot, weapons and aliens and a few other fundamental things but the concept is entirely different. The Fifth Element subverts its genre because it is there to entertain and not to make one think.

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