The story is more than well known. Premiering at Cannes in 1997, The fifth element by Luc Besson became a hit. The director, who was already known for his excesses and his satirical sense of humor, brought that sense of the absurd to the festival. So the first projection is carried out in the middle of an extravagant party. And one that even by the sophisticated standards of Cannes was expensive, with its million dollar budget. While the film was showing, a fashion show was included for Jean-Paul Gaultier, creator of the film’s costumes. At the end there were also fireworks.
But beyond the artifice, the film dazzled. The then best European film ever made, it became an immediate phenomenon. Besson, who for seven years worked in the production, created a festival of color and sense of the absurd which is still fascinating. Not only did he combine great Hollywood stars, he did it with a fresh look at science fiction. He also turned the film into a collection of quirky and sophisticated characters.
From Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo Multipass to Gary Oldman’s witty, unclassifiable villain. The film supported the idea of a Space Opera, but at the same time of a theatrical staging that surprised the critics and the public. It was not a love story — although there was one —, nor was it one of transcendental heroes — although there were a few. For Besson, who had planned for decades each point of the film’s staging, The fifth element it was a provocation.
Created, conceived and stylized to narrate a great look at good and evil. But at the same time, a journey through the best of the genre. With a similar ambition, The fifth element He even had the luxury of starring one of Hollywood’s action icons. Bruce Willis, in a parody of himself and in the midst of an extravagant setting, was the high point of a visual experiment. And after a cult work that he aged with a freshness that is still attractive.
all the stories in the universe
The film grossed $260 million on its official release, making it one of the highest-grossing films of 1997. It was an achievement that surprised critics in more ways than one. The fifth element it was not an intellectual work nor was it pure entertainment. It was something between both things and that put her in the middle of a debate of pure surprise. She was wild, extravagant and carefree. But it also had an existential touch with his story about a world about to be destroyed that had to be rescued. And what hero was appointed for such a mission? A primordial being, dressed in a white cloth lace suit, orange hair, and natural charm.
Milla Jovovich embodied what would be the first of her long list of strong and extraordinary women in the cinema. But Leeloo Multipass, a being created to hold the fate of the universe on her shoulders, it was incomprehensible. Or at least for the North American public, accustomed to female objects or formidable heroines like Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor. Leeloo was something between both and also much more. Jovovich created a fragile, vital and powerful character. One that although it had to save the universe from destruction, it also had to be saved. Of her self?
Luc Besson showed that history, which he also wrote and which he first imagined at the age of 16, was more than a radiant combination of ideas. It was a well-constructed conception of science fiction, combined with a sense of sensibility incomprehensible to producers and studios. It took the traditional Gaumont studio seven years to unravel a monumental project piece by piece. He assumed the expenses and the risk. Also, the condition of rarity of a film that covered a certain air of experiment that could fail very easily.
In fact, The fifth element it was just a summary of a larger idea when Gaumont began work on its production. The script was created between a team of creatives, Besson’s demands between calculations. And the line of suggestions from him was very long. The director wanted Hollywood stars, but he needed the film to have “a strong European identity.” All of this with a very American action star at the helm. Could something similar be achieved? It was another four years before the script was finally in the hands of its director.
Meanwhile, Besson filmed the nikita woman in 1990 and Leon: the professional of 1994. With his fame entrenched in successful productions, the rest was to start shooting his apotheosis of the absurd, the extravagant beauty and the strange. “The fifth elementor there was nothing else I could do but succeed,” Besson said in Cannes to applause from the audience.
The rest is galactic history of The Fifth Element
The fifth element it became an immediate success. And it was a confluence of situations. On the one hand, with pulp fiction of Quentin Tarantino in tow and Jungle of glass as a cover letterBruce Willis was a huge star in Hollywood. But also, one that had fun. And that’s just what he did as Korben Dallas, a futuristic cabbie determined to do his job and save the universe.
Stranger still was the villain Zorg, played by Gary Oldman. The English actor, who had previously worked with Besson, wore Gaultier clothes and had irrational outbursts of anger. And all under the idea of a type of evil “monstrous but beautiful” as the director later commented. Finally, actor Ian Holm and Chris Tucker joined the cast. With his eclectic cast of characters, Besson began his journey “towards an epic that would surprise”.
And he did. With its baroque staging, colorful cinematography and sometimes unpredictable script, Besson recorded a film made to be history. Science fiction became something alive, poignant and organic. And also, a brilliant and funny argument that conquered the public. The great film that was born as the idea of a teenager who dreamed of a blue-eyed heroine, came to the cinema and dazzled. Twenty-five years later, it still does.