There is no complicated metaphysics staged in The Fifth Element. It is actually a concept we immediately relate to, which is perhaps why the movie was so popular from the very beginning. Every five millennia or so, the world comes to a point where the mysterious Fifth Element must be ushered in on Earth in order to restore balance and hope for the mankind.
But this is not an attempt to discuss the inner idea of the movie. The production itself is symptomatic of what philosophers and sages of all times have strived to discover: the ground, the reason, the how and why this world is as it is and as we all know it. I don’t know much about Luc Besson’s affiliation to perennial philosophy, but my point is, on way or another, he manages to enact a version of the time immemorial search for foundation.
Greek philosophers are often evoked for their discussions about the constituents of reality. Some claim water is the secret element, others turn to fire. Some prefer to argue air is the most potent candidate to this run for all-pervasive element. Earth has made for ages the object of adoration in most religions.
With his astuteness and finesse, Aristotle accepts the existence of the four elements (surprised to see they coincide with the first four basic elements featured in the movie?), but he opens a new debate: the existence of the fifth element. Yes, the fifth element: in his words – well then, his words translated into Latin – quinta essentia, from which the term quintessence is derived.
In other words, the most important of all elements, the fifth one, has been identified with ether, dark matter and whatnot. Of course, The Fifth Element proposes Love to be the key figure of the abridged elemental table of the universe. It’s not necessarily a break from what others have suggested before: soul, spirit, the universal mind, divine force and the like.
On top of that, Love is catchier than other alternatives at hand. It sells better than ether or dark matter – doesn’t it? – especially when played by the redheaded and big-eyed Milla Jovovich. As viewers, we all relate faster with the moral and sentimental baggage a concept of this kind calls to mind.
Thumbs up to Besson who turned into a sellout a concept with a timeless career in philosophy!