Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2004

The Fifth Element (1997)


Discussion Questions:
last updated January 2, 2005


The film The Fifth Element is the most recently executed of the films we are looking at this term. It has had the benefit of great advances in film making technology, as well as the ability to use precedents as they have been developed in many of the previous science fiction and dystopic films.

This film is also the most highly reliant on computer animation and the generation of complex urban scenes and settings via this method. The shift to "bright light levels", versus the somber, rainy mood of Blade Runner, also puts the graphics to the test. Unlike films that are set "on location", computer and animated films are all purposefully done. Everything is deliberate and everything takes an extreme amount of effort.

When creating your paragraph for your image set, please make direct comparative references to at least one of the previous films of the term.



  1. Michael Votruba : Vertical movement in the city x

Comparing transportation within Fifth Element and Fritz Lang’s 1926 version of Metropolis shows the progression of the modern city. In Metropolis a look into the future included vehicles held in constant gridlock on enormous highway overpasses. This is reality in the present-day city where rush hour traffic has increased to an unsustainable level. Fifth Element looks beyond typical traffic conditions and portrays a a Manhattan traffic pattern that is multileveled. Traffic flow is no longer limited by rotating tires on asphalt surfaces because automobiles have the ability to fly.

The second of the images below, shows the character Leelo ( Milla Jovowich) falling. In this sequence vertical movement becomes the means for escape. Gravity still pulls downward working to her advantage. Leelo ends up crashing into the roof of Major Korben Dallas’ (Bruce Willis) roof. Leelo’s will to avoid capture signals this outstanding stunt. Dallas is traveling horizontally along with the typical grid of city traffic and saves the life of this mysterious anomaly. Her fall into his roof is abrupt and unexpected. It becomes Dallas’ fate to help Leelo save the earth.

Vertical movement in the Fifth Element reveals an interesting look into the future of transportation within the city. In the futuristic depiction of Manhattan there seems to be a continuation of the grid that exists in the present-day city. Fifth Element’s transportation grid operates on an infinite number of levels because cars can fly while maintaining their same functionality that they have on the ground. Vertical movement between these levels seems to occur for the most part rather sparingly. In the images below the train is one way to move up and down within the city. It is unlikely that this train is used for carrying passengers because of the discomfort that would be experienced. As a utility train it could be used to carry goods to the upper layer of the city quite efficiently. Vertical transportation and the multiplicity of layers creates a three dimensional matrix within which transportation works more efficiently in serving future Manhattan. The Fifth Element offers a convincing depiction of the necessity of moving three dimensionally within the future city.


2. Federica Martella : Fhlotsan Paradise


The spaceship descends through some clouds and glides over a vast turquoise sea.
Fhloston Paradise looms into view.
An enormous oceanliner floating a dozen yards above the water. On closer inspection it is more modern than a traditional oceanliner. The shuttle draws near, looking ridiculously small next to the monster.
Like a sardine next to a whale.
(from the script)

This is how the enormous cruise ship is described in the script of The 5th Element.
It is a famous tourist destination that even appears in one of the first scenes of the film in Korben Dallas/Bruce Willis’ apartment when:
Korben opens the fridge, bare, except for an empty can of GEMINI croquettes.
(“Korben Dallas! Here he is the most hated man in the universe. The one and only winner of the Gemini Croquette contest!” will be said forward on in the film by dj Loc Rhod )
A parody of the elite vacation: the trip won by Dallas (that should lead him to “save the world”) takes place on the interstellar ocean liner where there are "400 beaches, all accessible until 5:00 p.m.”, for the amusement of the ultra-chic guests,
presented by the famous and trendy dj as:

…Yesterday's unknown will be tomorrow's Prince of Fhloston Paradise,
the hotel of a thousand and one follies, home of luxury and beauty.
A magic fountain flowing with non-stop wine, women and Bootchie Koochie Koo...

Where a famous Diva comes to entertain the guests with her beautiful voice every ten years, where people are so extravagant and fancy (dressed with Jean-Paul Gaultier) and everything is so colorful and full of light (compared to the dark and rainy future of Blade Runner).


3. Olivia Keung : The use of neon colour


The role of neon lights and colour in The Fifth Element emphasize the contrast between the city portrayed here and other futuristic settings such as Blade Runner and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The latter movies depict dystopic cities that are dark and dreary. These cities are troubled places where the lights that represent the power of technology benefit an exclusive class of people; it is something reserved for those with power, who control the city, while the unfortunate classes whose labour actually makes this realm possible exist in an underworld shrouded in darkness. In Blade Runner, the neon lights of large-scale advertisements becomes an omnipotent presence that cannot be located, but that floats far above the city. In The Fifth Element, the city is free of the moral struggle involving technology and city-building; good and evil are abstract concepts that do not connect with specific spaces and people. Perhaps the New York that this movie depicts shares more with Zone 1 of Tezuka’s Metropolis: both cities are places of spectacle. Neon lights in The Fifth Element are everywhere: technology is a triumph; it services both good and evil; the city becomes a place of pleasure and brilliance.

The rare instances where neon colour is actually isolated and specific deals with elements of the higher order of good and evil. It is a way of depicting this abstract and ethereal quality. It is a major element in the scene in which the stones are finally activates these mysterious forces. The diva scene is obviously reminiscent of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva: here, the divine quality of music is visually emphasized in lighting and architectural space, where the audience forms a collective response to Hawkins, and also in the intimacy of Jules’ experience of music. In The Fifth Element, this divine presence is represented perhaps more literally with the use of neon colour. Both films portray music as something mysterious, that can’t be contained in human understanding. Perhaps the universality of neon colour in The Fifth Element is expressive of humanity’s efforts to mimic and control, or even simply to attain an understanding of this sense of the divine through technology.


4. Adriana De Angelis : The Portrayal of the Architecture at the "main" city level


Eighty years separete the realization of Metropolis and the one of The fifth element, but the two films have somehow something still in common. Done by two European directors, the German Fritz Lang for the first and the French Luc Besson for the second, they speak about the future and about human fear of what lies ahead, fear of the unknown. Metropolis with its dramatic, almost apocalyptic way and The fifth element with its irony and lightness seem to be the beginning and the end of a discourse, almost hundred years long, about life in earth modern cities which, being somehow no more up-to-date, could in the near future eventually be transferred to life in cities on different planets. City in Metropolis have different levels representing the two distinct classes in which society is divided. In The fifth element equality seems to have finally been reached among humans since everybody lives at the top of the huge skyscrapers which do not scare anybody anymore. Human beings, and therefore architects, seem not at all interested in what lies at the bottom of the very tall buildings where only emptiness, darkness and discarted materials can be found. Only transportation, in order to avoid traffic jams, is organized on different hights, but still everything happens up in the sky and it is from sky that danger and rescue come. Even love, in the person of a charming red hair angel, comes from there and not from the catacombs like in Metropolis. The whole vision of things is completely different in the two films even though, surely one is derived from the other. In Metropolis the future is only scaring unless helped by love in The fifth element, once we know it, we can also play with what lies in front of us and our fears of it which become somehow ridiculous. Should it not be time for us to pass to other, major problems which concern much more and more directly our nowadays life and finally leave behind the debate on the modern city or at least to actualize it?

  5. Julia Farkas : of robots and aliens  

6. Francesco Mancini : the role of the police/authority


In the movie “the Fifth Elementh”, the role of the police is reduced to a grotesque show of impotence and lack of power control and crime prevention.

Policemen share this characterization with the generals of the army, and wth all the characters representing public institutions as well.
Furthermore most of police patrols have been replaced by apparently more efficient police machines and devices to prevent crime episodes and control the population of the earth, now compressed in a higly congested planet-town.

In reality, none of these public structures is able to control anything, and insofar no really big differnce with the present situation. Only Corben Dallas, the protagonist, can actually change the events and restore the peace, saving the earth by means of love, the strongest force of the universe which allows everybody to behave rightly out of the rules in its name. The gag of the higway patrol hunting Dallas in the intense city traffic is very expressive in this regard. In the end the message is so simple as banal, and therefore it is perhaps definitively true. The counterposition of universal feelings to authority of enlightened power, and to the pure side of evil is the key to understand limits of simply “logical”, rughly repressive organization of society. It could ever sound similar to the concept of Alphaville, but for a small detail: the absolute absence, conceptual, physical and emotional absence, of any trace of poetry. Is it a detail that can be neglected?


7. Christian Tognela : eating and food


1 French Director who had a couple of good ideas in the past
1/3 of Blade Runner
1/3 of Metropolis
1/3 of Star Wars
1 American actor who is ironic enough to shoot at someone and make you laugh
1 Girl, 5' 8" tall, slender, deep blue eyes, almost naked all the time
1 French Most Extravagant Fashion Designer and all his crew of top models
1 English Actor ready to look ridicolous with fake teeth and freaky hair
A bunch of special effects
Comics and various funny monsters/aliens sprayed here and there

Take a director who made two lovely films in the past with a great sense of business, better if he’s french and similar to Philip Starck and also much better if he has just married a gorgeous top model. Mix some ideas from Blade Runner – such as the retired policeman/soldier, big screens all around ( be sure to substitute Coke with McDonalds...times are changing...), eating asian food around to described the city of the 23° century – some ideas from classic SF movies like Metropolis – such as the vertical city, the skyline – some ideas from Star Wars – such as the menace of something from the space...the black death...the evil...whatever – then pick out an actor who can shoot and gag at the same time..if he was the main character in all the Die Hard movies...well that’s perfect! You can ask him to change hair colour, just in case...Now put the american funny actor with the gorgeous ex top model, possibly almost naked. In a separate moment ask a french fashion designer to take part in the film as the costumes designer. He will give you all the costumes and also a bunch of top models to spread into the film as you like. It doesn’t matter if the uniform of General Munro ( by the way, he was one of the replicants in blade runner...again...) looks the same of those one in Dr.Strangelove...what you really need is to recreate the atmosphere of a parisienne catwalk. Take an english actor with a high attitude about self destruction and ask him to act as the bad one. The more stupid he will look the best it will be. Look at your comics collection of the 60/70’s and find out some funny aliens, some threatening monsters who speaks in a very pitched voice (or take a look at Star Wars again...), choose some of them and put them all together. Then you need some gunfights, shootings, chases, some close ups of the deep blue eyes of the girl, some smart smilings close ups of the american actor. Arrange all together, mix everything in 126 minutes and be sure that the ex soldier and the perfect girl come from another world will be in love with each other in order to have a happy end. Just serve.


8. Nancy Gibson : parking


So parking is hovering regular cars so they take up space vertically as well as horizontal. Is that the best he can think of? If I were imagining a future of vehicles, I would imagine people would make more use of the three dimensions they were given, and not just for parking. I can imagine the thought process of 3 dimensional drivers in the future and they wouldn’t pull in like 2D drivers. If you were use to 3D driving, that is how you would conceive of landing. Immelman turns, split S’s, spins and rolls come to mind here. They’re a lot more efficient than driving down the block and turning around 2D. I wonder how passengers get in and out from the parking spaces though, since there aren’t any sidewalks. This writer’s idea of vehicular traffic is as lame as his conception that the Chinese of the future are still cooks, driving anachronistic delivery restaurants in a New York that is still the centre of commerce. Urban driving in “Just Imagine” was much better thought out. At least it tried to suggest how things might work instead of relying on appearances alone to convey the impression of the future. Fifth element ends up looking like a comic book story.
Oh yes, and the cars occupy spaces the size of an apartment unit in buildings that house people like honeycomb. I think the honeycomb housing is plausible since it’s already in the works (see Hong Kong) but I’m sure there’s enough height in the atmosphere to provide an alternative to wasting money on garage space.


9. Clementine Chang : Travel through space -- the passage of time?


In a number of movies we saw this term, representation of highly advanced transportation has been used to communicate futuristic urban visions. In Metropolis, Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, similar swarms of flying cars flood the city vertically and horizontally. These flying vehicles have evidently become the icon of future cities.

Space travel is portrayed as an everyday common event in both Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. It is no longer something that’s exclusive to government research, but rather a commodity made available to everyone by the advent of technology. In Blade Runner, the human population is said to have gradually relocated themselves to other “off-world” planets in order to escape the devastating decay on planet earth. Meanwhile, in The Fifth Element, the idea of space travel is taken to the extreme. Here, the concept of space tourism is presented, making space travel not mere necessity, but luxurious desire. In the film, an orbiting hotel entertains thousands of tourists with fine dining and opera performances by an alien diva.

The passage of time when traveling through space is deceivingly short in both Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. Although foreign planets are many unimaginable light years away, the audience is left with the impression that it takes no time to travel to outer space. It would seem that the situation is much the same as our present travels to other cities on our own planet. In the film, when Korben Dallas and Leeloo traveled to the orbit hotel, the passage of time is clearly compressed. They were forced to sleep by just the press of a button and awaken just as easily. This way the passengers of the rocket plane get the impression that the trip is a mere blink of an eye. It is also interesting to note that the coffin-sized sleeping cubicles on the rocket plane are reminiscent of actual capsule hotels in Japan.

  10. Mark Cichy : the architectural manifestation of Zorg and its evil genius (notice how the view outside the window changes...)  

11. Aaron Nelson : circular rooms and corridors (why?)



The reason for the circular rooms and corridors I believe relates back to the whole theme of the movie, initially of what does the fifth element symbolize and relating this theme though the visuals and architecture of the sets and computer generated imagery.
The theme of the fifth element being the centre or core of many elements and the fifth being the internal off, thus creates the basis of a relationship of the shape used, that being circular. This shape also can be taken further with the words planets, space, futuristic, weightlessness, free flowing….no rigid forms etc describing most of the forms of this movie.

The circular room of the earth’s presidential party in the first image and the second image consisting of the corridor with Zorg walking through it is just one of many representations of this shape used and can be related back if not in an opposite to that of blade runner being a harsher, darker movie with a very rigid and stiff feel to the presence of that films architecture and setting, where everything is sharp and angled yet deploys an amazing futuristic impression, a complete opposite in shape to that of the fifth element but both movies parallel the same vision of future events in America.


12. Elizabeth Myers : fashion


The Fifth Element is the most recent film viewed in class. The advances in technology and film making are evident, and can be seen in the lighting, sets and special effects. It follows a common theme found in many of the films viewed this term, the future. It used many of the same elements as the other films when depicting the future, crowded cities, flying transportation, pollution, and space travel. However it seemed that this film pushed the limits more than others to incorporate aspects of the future throughout. A good example of this would be the fashion throughout the film. In many films previously viewed fashion is one of the few elements that remain somewhat current. Perhaps this was to not overwhelm the audience, or so that the audience could more easily relate to the characters. However, in The Fifth Element, fashion has no boundaries. It is portrayed as being completely over the top; very bright colours, wild hairdos, and very skimpy clothing. This could be a reflection of the fashion industry of the 90’s, which was constantly becoming more and more extreme, compared to the industry earlier in the century when the other films were made. Looking at Just Imagine for instance, the fashion in the film was representative of the time, with only slit moderation, as though they couldn’t imagine fashion changing all that much over time, compared to technology. However now the custom designers have seen how quickly fashion can change, and how extreme it can be. The fashion in the film completes the image of the future. Everything seen within the film is part of another world; the audience becomes transported to another time.


13. Vivien Liu : the city of New York in 300 years time


the left hand image is linked to a larger one so you can see it better

The world of Fifth Element, unlike that in Blade Runner, has remained the home of mankind despite the major advances in space technology which enables inter-galactic travel. Thus, Earth is not an abandoned and decaying relic of civilization but continues to develop into a hyper-speed society with intricate networks of hovering vehicles and soaring skyscrapers, like Lang’s Metropolis put fast forward. In the film there is a complete lack of scenes that take place on street level and the base of buildings are given less detail to emphasize the heights of the towers, indicating that life takes place at the level where vehicles hover. There are recognizable landmarks included in the movie such as Brooklyn Bridge (second image) although its function is clearly redundant.

Like Blade Runner, there are no traces of nature but yet in the Fifth Element the skies are not polluted with industrial smog and sunlight still penetrates to illuminate the city. This adds to the film’s positive outlook of a somewhat less dystopic society (the President is still a human being).


14. Joshua Bedard : common persons and intermediary spaces


Since our viewing of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, we have seen the emergence of the sci-fi film genre. One particular thing that these films (Metropolis, Just Imagine, Blade Runner, Brazil and The Fifth Element) have in common is that they are all centred on the average citizen and depict to us a view of what the future may bring. While the directors of these films set out to depict the city to us at a grand scale they also give particular importance on the smaller details of the average citizen. This can be seen in each films depiction of residence.

In the earlier films, Metropolis and Just Imagine, the residential units of the average citizen are very spacious, with multiple rooms branching off your basic living room and kitchen. However in the later films such as Blade runner, Brazil and The Fifth Element we see a more accurate and dystopic rendering of the commoners place of residence. It is in these later films that we see the average citizens residence reduced to a modular unit. These units appear in scenes to be very repetitious as if they were mass produced from a machine. They are relatively small units and have many rooms or items taking on multiple tasks, as can be seen in The Fifth Element with the transforming shower/fridge.

I find these modular units to be a very accurate depiction of the uprising state of society. This becomes most evident in New York City where housing demands to live in Manhattan have sky rocketed. It is within these markets that we begin to see rooms rising from kitchens and living rooms converted into bedrooms. As anyone who has or currently does live in Manhattan will attest, it is virtually impossible to find an affordable dwelling unit in Manhattan that allows you to have a kitchen, living room and several bedrooms, like we seen in Just Imagine.

For this reason I find the modular dwelling units depicted in The Fifth Element to be an interesting but fearful solution to the rising population demands found within a major metropolis.


15. Tammy Chau : the architecture of the paradise destination


The paradise destination contrasts the underworld in every attempt. Once the crowd emerged from the spacecraft they were greeted by a group dressed in tribal costume, the atmosphere is forced with the presence of culture. Clearly, the underworld has been the victim of globalization and industrial standardization where traces of culture have became a rarity. The camera pans across the crowd and reveals the main hall with oval shaped windows. The bright blue sky is not only emphasized, but extends onto the blue décor of the room itself. All the spaces in the paradise destination are excessively decorated with gold trimmings and flamboyant furniture; one may easily relate such extravagant yet paper thin ‘architecture’ to Las Vegas. Every room seems too spacious and overly sterile, a contrast to the underworld. It becomes more obvious in Korben Dallas’s guestroom, where the ornaments and furnishing materials attempt to covey the gesture of an extravagant room, yet the way the overly sterile ‘marble’ floor reflects light only leads one to question how synthetic the material is. After all, the room resembles a hospital room more than a hotel room.


16. Liam Brown: state of the environment


It seems a little bit suspect that a society that sits below perpetually blue skies would have no problems with pollution, and so it is no surprise that they have garbage flowing into airports and scattered underneath the expressways. It could almost be past off as intentional had not the ticket agent at the airport apologized for the mess. Instead, Luc Besson’s the Fifth Element addresses the environmental dystopia of the days to come.

The glaring commentary on our nature as people to not consider the ramifications of our actions is paramount in the depiction of the state of the environment. In past films they do not address this, Metropolis deals with classes, Blade Runner with species, Alphaville with technology, but the Fifth Element strongly addresses the environmental dystopia of the future. The president who hastily makes the decision to blow up the great blob in outer space only strengthens it, while had he listened to the advice of those around him, then he would not have to deal with an even greater problem than the one he had initially been faced with. So too today do we conduct ourselves without the consideration of the consequence, and we pollute, waste and consume without the realization of the mess that we are in, and the mess that is getting stronger the more we hastily continue to live the way we are living.

A problem is not much good without a solution and even in Besson’s examples there could be hope. The overflowing airport waste could be compacted and act as sound barriers for the loud traffic of planes. The multitude of colourful mess packed therein could be a lovely mosaic set behind glass, providing both function and aesthetic. The metals placed underneath the expressways; well they could act as conductors to the vehicular or train traffic, instead of a graveyard to household appliances past.

The scenes in the Fifth Element depicting the state of their environment serves as a warning to the way of life of now, and its manifestation in the future. Luc Besson outlines the future dystopia that we may soon be facing, where no amount of creative solutions may be helpful.

  17. Matt Bolen : advances in technology  
The following images of the “fifth element” being transformed from some kind of pod or seed into a human being show the development and advancement in technology that is depicted in this futuristic film. This prophecy on technological advancement is made using various precedent from films released over the past century. One of the first of its kind to make such prophecies was Fritz Lang’s, Metropolis. Lang’s film from the 1920’s made various prediction on technological advancement that would occur in upcoming decades. These mainly focused on telecommunication. The connection of this prediction to the one made in the Fifth Element is that they both comment on current “hot topics” which were being developed in the way of advancement at the time. At the time of Metropolis, large advancements were being made in the way of telecommunication with radio waves fully being examined. At the time when Fifth Element was made filmed a very hot topic in the way of technological advancement was cloning and genetic manipulation. This therefore manifests itself in this film as the current most outrageous prophecy for technological advancement precedent. Due to the development of computer animation at the time of this film this aspect of technological advancement was able to be fully and quite adequately explored. As seen from the images, the scene takes on a realism which the eye wants to fully believe. Because of this, this movie raises an interesting question: will the computer generated world which we experience in the movies ever transcend the imaginary realm of the film world and enter our everyday reality?……or has it already begun to do so?

18. Andrea Krejcik : The Diva


In the film Fifth Element there is a lot of focus placed on the character of, the Diva. In many of the films studied in class, sound is perceived to be the highest form of expression that anyone can convey. The best known example is the representation in the film “The Diva”. There, the opera singer’s voice is transcendent of any of the turmoil taking place on Earth. The sound of her voice is in a way an escape from reality. This seems to be a running theme through many of the futuristic films seen this semester.

In the Fifth Element, the Diva is seen as one of the purest creatures in existence at the time. With her voice, she has the ability to put a halt on reality. During her concert, people sit back in awe while she sings her melodies. It is interesting to note that in the Fifth Element, the character of the Diva is not largely expanded on. A cloth is draped over the face of the diva in many of her scenes. Perhaps the ambiguity is in order to let the viewer interpret what the purest form should be like. The Diva also has many religious interpretations relating to the Virgin Mary. The dress she wears on the night of her performance is blue, a holy colour in Christianity. Her skin and blood also appear to be blue, which is revealed when her character is shot, by the evil characters in the film. In comparison to the movie, The Diva, there the opera singer wears pure white silk, which represents another form of purity. Lastly, in the Diva’s final scene in the Fifth Element, the stones she is protecting are held within her. Perhaps this is another comparison to the Virgin Mary.

In all the futuristic films, there is one example or another of forms of escape from reality. In Blade Runner, androids were created to aid in the reality of tasks on earth. In Brazil, after the main character finds his life unbearable to live, he journeys into his subconscious to create a life of his own interpretations. Or in Alpha Ville, reality is highly suppressed in order to create the perfect reality, an escape or divergence of what really exists. In the Fifth Element, the escape from reality is represented through the Diva. For a few moments in time, people can forget their problems while they listen to her sing on the floating paradise cruise space liner.


19. Natalie Drago : architectural precedent


In the fifth element, the year is 2259 and the world is under siege. The film is a slam dunk sci-fi extravaganza written and directed by Luc Bresson. It is also an extravaganza of architectural design, fashion design and hair design. It’s a highly constructed spectacle of light and setting propelled by a lively assortment of special effects, exotic sets and design and wild costumes. It features a wonderful cast of scenery eating villains who make the most out of this spectacle. The future New York scene depicted is brightly colored and its air traffic lanes look super cool as flying objects whirl by in the super imposed computer animations.

It’s cyberpunk aesthetic and philosophy at its modern brightest best. The architectural precedence for this film was set and tested and experimented with in many ways, in many forms on many levels by a number of films we experienced in this course. The contradiction depicted here between modern contemporary architecture and traditional or futuristic design reminds us of the contradiction between the forms of architecture depicted in Blade Runner. Blade Runner architecture set some precedence for the creation of the Fifth Element set design. What of tradition vs. modernity? Here traditions is synonymous with elements of religion, love and faith while modernity or even futurism are synonymous with technology, evil, destruction and general mayhem. The cyberpunk element found in design avenues throughout the course of Fifth Element was also contained in Blade Runner as well as moments or the aura of a glooming oppressive atmosphere. Both films also touch on ornamentation and it’s place in design vs. industrial unornamented design.

The more exotic components of design found in The Fifth Element setting and stage remind us of the pleasure garden design and manifestation founded in Metropolis. Both apply organic references and forms as well as working with tectonic derivations. In addition Just Imagine, in the alien world setting incorporated elements of exoticism in their set and costume design. In many ways all the three scenarios use exoticism to take us away from the banality and plain functional forms that have defined and dominated everyday architecture.

Secondly all the aforementioned films and the Fifth Element cause us to consider clothing and hair in architectural terms, definitions, principals and conditions. They exist as terms with social implications, which therefore have meanings and serve a purpose as well as being manipulated tectonic forms with structure designed into their forms. We are in each scenario addressing and being presented with new ideas or shall we say variations of old ideas that date back to the beginnings of technology being conceived as a resource adopted into mainstream culture expanding building and design possibilities. All the aforementioned films address and work with the notions of technology and the theme of dystopic worlds. The Fifth Element being a kind of new age dystopia displaying a mixture of traditional, modern, futuristic and exotic breeds of architecture, encompassing all dimensions of design, design development and design characteristics. These forms of architecture are four elements contributing to the film atmosphere, again reminiscent and drawing from past films, developing film setting and environment.

Something interesting I read:

“Similarly the laws of gravity and light seem totally dissimilar. They obey different physical assumptions and different mathematics. Attempts to splice these two forces have always failed. However if we add one more dimension, a fifth dimension, to the previous four dimensions of space and time, then equations governing light and gravity appear to merge together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Light, in fact can be explained in the fifth dimension. In this way, we see the laws of light and gravity become simpler in five dimensions.”

“Hope it helps the understanding of what the fifth element means, and all the time we are still speaking about energy here, not as an understanding of the aether, but of what that missing mass means.”

The fifth element and its architecture
Its cyberpunk!
The Fifth Element


20. Shane Czyphya : communication?


In the dystopic future state of the world in “The Fifth Element” telephone communication is one of the only things that have not progressed from today’s world. In fact, phones have almost regressed. There are no cell phones, which is certainly a regression from today’s society (although whether that really is regression or progress is debatable) and there are not regularly used videophones, which are a commonplace prediction in so many futuristic movies. The only advancement is the use of the video doorbell, which addresses the issue of necessity and safety, and is not really in any way frivolous. In this very built world there is little to no privacy. The fact that there are no cell phones or videophones comments on our necessity to resist technology in favour of privacy. This is a step towards keeping control of the world in the hands of humans, and not allowing our own conceived technology take over. This is unlike Brazil and Blade Runner, where technology has gotten out of control and life has become a struggle against our own inventions, the very technology conceived to improve our quality of life. The way phones are treated in the Fifth Element is a comment on the culturally responsible discretion needed in the consideration of the role technology should play in our lives.

The use of phones also parallels the use of audio media over video media. Ruby Rock, the universal personality, does his show on the radio as opposed to video which is the dominant media in our culture today.


21. James Arvai : the height/cross section of the city


Cinematic technology in the film The Fifth Element is used to great effect to suspend disbelief of viewers. The new film technology presents a futuristic urban imagery with a very high “shock and awe” factor. The new film technology puts the viewer convincingly into the future by presenting a world that resembles our own but is reshaped by futuristic technology. Recognizable icons of our urban society are everywhere in the film. Examples include the yellow cab (it flies in the future but the cabdrivers are still characters), the cruise ship resort (it orbits a planet in the future) and the always too small urban apartment of the working class (with everything built-in space saving in the future). In previous futuristic films futuristic technology is often at odds with humanity and is demonized. The urban setting in futuristic films is often co joined with technology and its demons. An Early example is the film Metropolis (1927), a recent example is Blade Runner (1982). I believe the film The Fifth Element turns a corner in SciFi vilifying technology. This film does not present technology as the villain. The urban futurscape is engaging and often exiting. I love it when everyone gets to have flying cars. The characters of the film play out a human drama with the futuristic techno as a backdrop.
I would like to offer some tenuous insights for this change. Possibly, our society has grown more comfortable with technology over time. We have immersed ourselves into it. It has grown familiar and consequentially less threatening. A society that dares to believe in achieving the dream of visiting Mars, that accepts that we will go to Mars very soon, must also believe that technology is not the boogieman. We may have accepted technology as such an integral part of our lives that we no longer view technology as separate from ourselves.
If this proves to be true, we should see some great films in the future about the future…..but who or what will be the new villain?


22. Anne-Marie Armstrong : The Opera House


The Opera House in the film, Fifth Element can be immediately related to the film Diva, where in both circumstances the operatic experience is elevated beyond simply a performance to one verging on what could be considered a divine experience. In the film Diva, the Opera House is a crumbling, peeling space with a bare wall as backdrop. The setting here is unimportant, it is the performance which is punctuated and what generates the experience for the audience. The Opera House in the Fifth Element is set on a pleasure space machine. The interior is extremely lavish, and similar to most of the scenery of the movie, due to computer generated imagery has a certain shiny newness to it. The backdrop is, supposedly, natural and dramatic - it is the backdrop of starry constellations and planets. The senses are overwhelmed by the space and setting of the House, the action of the audience, the performance of the Diva. Which effectively build up to the point at which chaos ensues in the violent search for the four stones.

Further to the relavance of the Opera House, the role of the Divas in both films can be contrasted. Where in Diva, we encounter Cynthia Hawkins, who as a Diva has a distinct personality and position from the rest of the cast of characters in the film, in The Fifth Element, the Diva character is literally a treasured creature. We first encounter the Diva shrouded in a cloak, surrounded by an entourage. She is only revealed during performance as a dramatic blue creature with an otherworldly voice. The audience is transfixed for a moment before the chaos ensues in the search for the stones.


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