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The Fifth Element: Analysis of Film Music

Introductory Comments

“The Fifth Element” is a 1997 science fiction film with a touch of comedy, directed and co-written by Luc Besson, which originated from a story he created in high school. It received positive reviews mostly, and was considered a major box office hit. With an estimated budget of $90 million, it grossed over $180 million within 6 months worldwide. It was also nominated for Best Sound Effects Editing in the 71st Annual Academy Awards in 1998.


The year is 2263. Earth is soon to be visited by the Great Evil in the form of a mammoth ball of fire in space, which makes its rounds to our planet every 5000 years. The only thing that can save us is the Divine Light, which springs from a particular formation of the 4 basic elements – earth, water, wind and fire, plus the fifth element in the centre in an Egyptian temple. The 4 basic elements are represented by the 4 mystical stones, which are the coveted objectives of the heroes as well as the villains in the story. The fifth element is incarnated by Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), who is apparently a superior and perfect being. Much of the film is focused on the race to the orphic stones. Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), an air taxi driver and former major in the elite Special Forces, aids in the mission, falls in love with the fifth element, and together save the world in the end.


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Style and Concept

Depending on the type of film it goes with, a film score can be made up of different styles of music. Eric Serra, the man behind “The Fifth Element’s” score, is a French composer/ songwriter/ record producer, who often collaborated with this film’s director. His strengths are in the pop, dance and electronic genre, as clearly exhibited in the film. The movie, being science fiction and frivolous at the same time, was given music that it befittingly matched – a crossbreed of electronic sound and classical orchestra. The film score was incohesive and eclectic with music pieces taken from Bohemian or Arabic string tunes, cheerful reggae music, throbbing electronic drum beats and bass, awkward pop rhythms, and with riotous usage of synths. Really a motley assortment of music styles, it could pass as being psychotic, strange and schizophrenic. But there were dramatic scenes that required a more serious tone, and this is where the classical opera music and the staple traditional orchestra wonderfully and effectively blended in.

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Below is a detailed list of all the cues in “The Fifth Element,” together with their timings, which is called spotting.

  1. (2:27-5:17) The start of the film where an archaeologist was trying to decipher the hieroglyph on the walls of an Egyptian temple
  2. (05:30-6:25) As the spaceship of the Mondoshawans lands outside the temple
  3. (6:33-7:32) As the Mondoshawans alight their ship
  4. (8:39-9:20) As the sarcophagus of the fifth element is first seen in the film
  5. (9:58-11:35) As the Mondoshawans are leaving the temple while one is left behind and the temple key is handed to a priest
  6. (13:15-13:58) In 2263, as the priest warns of the nature of the Great Evil
  7. (14:11-14:23) As the priest and the US president argues on offensive actions towards the Great Evil
  8. (14:29-15:57) As the human battleship launches its first attack on the Great Evil
  9. (16:18-17:54) First look at Korben Dallas as he wakes up in his home
  10. (18:59-20:00) As a retarded mugger points a gun at Dallas
  11. (20:29-21:05) As the priest shares the story behind the fifth element being the light of creation
  12. (21:21-22:08) As the Mondoshawan ship is destroyed by Mangalores as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere
  13. (22:59-24:24) As a severed limb is shown recovered from the Mondoshawan crash site.
  14. (24:35-27:44) As Leeloo is being reconstructed from the recovered limb.
  15. (28:03-30:57) As Leeloo escapes the laboratory
  16. (31:30-32:34) The first meeting of Dallas and Leeloo after Leeloo dropped into his taxi cab
  17. (32:55-34:40) As Leeloo is being collected by the police from Dallas’ cab
  18. (35:10-37:25) The police chase featuring “Alech Taadi” performed by Khaled
  19. (38:45-39:00) As Leeloo is brought to the priest’s residence
  20. (39:47-40:15) As Dallas kisses the still unconscious Leeloo on the lips
  21. (41:27-41:53) As Leeloo first tells her name
  22. (43:07-43:48) As Dallas tells a friend on the phone about Leeloo
  23. (57:31-57:44) As Dallas is told of his winning 2 tickets to Fhloston Paradise
  24. (62:48-63:34) As Leeloo comes out of the shower wet
  25. (64:06-64:39) As Dallas accepts his mission and the airport scene
  26. (68:15-69:55) The popular radio show of Ruby Rhod
  27. (72:34-75:15) Scene around the space ship
  28. (75:29-75:43) During takeoff of the space ship
  29. (76:17-77:28) As Zorg chats with Mr. Shadow on the phone
  30. (78:28-79:21) Arrival in Fhloston Paradise
  31. (80:26-82:01) As Diva Plavalaguna goes into her hotel suite
  32. (82:01-83:17) Continuation of Ruby Rhod’s radio show in the concert theatre
  33. (83:51-87:00) Performance of Gaetano Donizetti's “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Inva Mula-Tchako
  34. (87:01-88:19) “The Diva Dance” while Leeloo fights off the Mangalores
  35. (89:03-91:04) As Zorg appears in Diva Plavalaguna’s suite
  36. (93:21-93:45) As Dallas holds the dying Diva Plavalaguna
  37. (93:01-97:38) During Dallas’ gun fight with the Mangalores
  38. (98:02-99:10) As Dallas kills the Mangalores’ leader
  39. (99:25-99:39) As everyone is relieved from the Mangalores’ defeat
  40. (100:40-101:34) As Leeloo is withdrawn from the roof by Dallas
  41. (101:40-103:03) As the priest and Ruby Rhod discover the bomb
  42. (104:11-105:22) As Dallas and Leeloo leave Fhloston Paradise
  43. (106:36-107:36) As Leeloo studies about wars between human beings featuring “Pictures of War”
  44. (107:42-111:42) As Dallas, Leeloo and the priest arrive in the Egyptian temple
  45. (112:16-114:35) As Dallas professes his love for Leeloo
  46. (115:58-123:10) End credits featuring “Little Light of Love” performed by Eric Serra

Source Music and Songs

Music that came from the on screen concert of Diva Plavalaguna is Gaetano Donizetti's opera piece “Lucia di Lammermoor,” gloriously performed by Inva Mula-Tchako and the London Symphony Orchestra. It served as a complimentary prelude to the fight scene between Leeloo and the Mangalores, accompanied by “The Diva Dance” after the seamless transition between the two separate musical pieces.

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Compositional Techniques

In “The Fifth Element” is an obvious pervasive use of leitmotif. “Ruby Rap” which is essentially electronic and techno music, formed the base for the most irritating radio host/ DJ in the character of Ruby Rhod, every time he was on screen. “Korben Dallas” was the theme for the character of none other than Korben Dallas that utilized techno beats and looped drum pads with various integrated sound effects. It brought a cool and funky groove effect which perfectly depicted the erratic and eclectic nature of the future as portrayed in the film. Moreover, “The Diva Dance” was also a techno bass and drum combination ameliorated by Tchako’s solid opera singing. This piece coincided with the fight scene between Leeloo and the Mangalores. The more traditional full orchestral themes used by Serra were affirmed in “Koolen,” “Leeloominai,” “Human Nature” and “Protect Life,” which aptly corresponded to the grand, however clichéd, plot line of the film which was to save humanity against the Great Evil; and “Pictures of War” which was a heavier full orchestral piece brought on as Leeloo witnessed man’s own great evil throughout history.

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About originality, Serra has incorporated various electronically generated sounds which included the sound of cats meowing especially heard in “Korben Dallas.” This was still in concurrence with the film generally not taking itself too seriously. The humorous and haphazard nature of the film called for the eclectic and incohesive film score created by Serra, which was bizarrely perfect for the film.



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