Whether Luc Besson has been the subject of many controversies over the years and has not necessarily succeeded in convincing the critics and the public on these last films, there is nevertheless a renowned French director at the origin of cult films. Among them, The fifth Element (whose origin of the costume of Leeloo), a movie of science fiction and an dystopia which, like other films of the genre, helps to bring out the failings of our society. As the feature film celebrated its 25 years last month, let’s go back to some aspects of our current world that he had successfully predicted.
1) An overpopulated world and an ecology in the closet
At the beginning of Fifth Element, we learn thatthere is a presidency “federated territories” overseeing no less than “200 billion fellow citizens”just that. A kind of world government, therefore, which has a lot to do to manage overpopulation (in particular calling for particularly topical mass surveillance), the consequences of which are felt at all times: we see the evolution of a large megalopolis filled with huge skyscrapers, between which circulate on several levels hundreds of flying cars and humans (and aliens) who move in often dirty streets, sometimes so polluted that they are shrouded in thick fog. Some real cities are already affected by this kind of problem, and the world population is destined to increase drastically: in 2050, it is estimated that nearly 10 billion humans will inhabit the Earth.
2) Overdeveloped technology
It is ironic that Luc Besson did not manage to determine what would become of our communication technologies in the 21st century: Korben Dallas receives messages on what appears to be some sort of minitel, while the phones are typical late 90s/early 2000s. Conversely, we see hundreds of flying cars, but also robots that seem to populate every street corner, evidenced by the robot cleaners who arrive instantly when the big bad, Zorg, swings his glass on the ground while he praises technological progress. A bit of the Elon Musk of our own world (and meaner all the same). If we’re not there yet, the automation of many services and flying car projects do exist.
3) An increasingly violent world
We have already mentioned mass surveillance, with the use of drones, cameras and intrusive authorities, which in itself represents both a violation of privacy and freedom. Luc Besson’s film also features social violence, a world in which rich and poor are separated and where the latter are stigmatized. A statement that jumps out at you when you compare certain very luxurious interior decorations to the disreputable streets of the city or even to the very rudimentary apartment of Korben. But of course, it is also the more “classic” violence, that of arms, that which causes millions of deaths, which is denounced. Ironic, when we see the number of victims that the character played by Bruce Willis, but the very touching scene in which Leeloo discovers what war is and the ravages of which human beings are capable has its small effect, while the Fifth Element has tears in its eyes and is about to give up on saving humanity.
4) An obsession with luxury
From the exaggerated luxury of the ship that Leeloo and Korben infiltrate, to the extravagant clothing style of Ruby Rhod, overly mannered and pretentious, which can easily be seen as a veritable walking parody of the richest who are ready to do anything to get noticed, even in the most futile way. Yet, despite this ridicule, this is what those who are jealous of such people often aspire to. Fashion seems to be at the heart of the film, the most striking being once again Ruby’s exceptional leopard outfit. No wonder when you know that it was Jean-Paul Gaultier himself who designed Leeloo’s outfits.
And if you also liked The fifth Element, you may be curious to find out what has become of the actors since the film was released in 1997!