Analysis of a Seven Minute Sequence From Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997) Essay Sample
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The micro elements contained by a film are an essential element within the generation of meaning for the films audience. The sound of a film can create a sense of a character, define genres, and influence the narrative and fashion settings, whereas editing techniques generally provide the viewer with the tone of a sequence and the relationship between characters within a sequence. Cinematography and mise-en-scene work in harmony to contribute
to contribute to the film’s impact on viewers through relaying a sense of historical time, setting, genre, mood and narrative. This micro essay will examine how all of these micro elements work together to formulate meaning and response within a sequence from Luc Besson’s 1997 film The Fifth Element. This sequence that I will be focusing on illustrates the performance of the famous opera singer, Diva Plavalaguna, as Leeloo fights the Mangalore’s for the four stones.
The sequence commences with the stage curtains drawing back, revealing the vast arena in which the renowned opera singer, Diva Plavalaguna, is to begin her performance. With the gentle non-diegetic sound of an orchestra beginning, only the audience sitting in the arena are visible, the foreground of this shot (which includes the silhouette of the Diva), is drenched in total darkness. Viewers will know that from a previous scene, she appeared masked from heat to foot in a cloak, so we appreciate that the director wants to portray a sense of mystery surrounding her. As her back is turned to us, a spotlight appears from above and illuminates the Diva. This is swiftly followed by a quick edit to a close up of Korben Dallas and the emotion displayed on his face as he takes in what he sees before him. As the audience, we struggle to understand what emotion Dallas is expressing, he seems nervous, but at the same time, astonished that this is who was chosen to guard the stones.
In the next shot, we are granted the first close up of the Diva Plavalaguna. Accompanied by the backdrop of Fhloston Paradise behind her, there is a palpable relation between this character and the mise-en-scene. ‘Fhloston Paradise’ is indeed a planet of paradise; it is natural and pure, untouched by mankind. In this film Zorg is in charge of millions of jobs and he manufactures machinery of all kinds. He also supports Evil. This in turn could be trying to suggest that much of mankind is touched by evil in one way or another. Diva Plavalaguna relates to the mise-en-scene, in the way that she too is pure and untouched by any of mankind’s ‘evil’. She is pure enough to have been entrusted by the Mondochiwan with the responsibility of safeguarding the stones. This mise-en-scene of the planet in the background also advocates the part of the genre of the film; sci-fi.
As she begins to sing, we notice the trance that her voice holds over the audience, her power is great, and it is reinforced through a low angle shot of her, making her appear larger, and more superior. She is also reminiscent of a sea animal, with her blue skin and tentacles protruding from her head. She is evocative of a siren; the singing mermaids that would entrance passing fishermen, making them crash to their death.
The next insertion is of Leeloo as she stands in the hotel corridor, waiting for the Diva. Her demeanour is poignant as she is leans against a wall; it is obvious that she is saddened by something. We imagine that it could be that Leeloo is reminded of her fellow Mondochiwan through the way that Diva Plavalaguna is the only person they trusted to safe keep the stones – the Diva is the closest thing to home at the moment. The sound bridge of the Diva’s singing that has been carried into Leeloo’s frame, indicates that events outside of the arena are also about to have effect. Sound bridges are a very effective and subtle way for the film maker to suggest a connection between two scenes. There is then a fast edit to Dallas, signifying that he is perhaps thinking of Leeloo. The camera tracks around the Diva, demonstrating the large audience she entertains, with the Diva being in the centre of the frame in most of the edits, we are reminded that the director is hoping for our attention to be completely focused on the Diva’s and her performance.
The subsequent edit illustrates the captain of the ship being informed that another ship requests docking for ‘repairs’. We assume that even though the security is expected to be exceptionally tight, the captain is distracted by the performance he watches on a screen. We know that the director would not have exposed this shot unless it had any relevance to the scene and this is confirmed when in the next shot we see Zorg is the one being granted permission to board the spacecraft for one hour. Any reservations that the audience may have had about danger being ahead are reinforced, as we know that any place that Zorg is, danger is not far behind. As Zorg boards the spacecraft quoting ‘That’s more than I need’ (in relation to being granted one hour for repairs), the mood of Diva’s song changes slightly, becoming more intense. Another cut-away shot from the Diva, brings us to her room where her guards await. As they are in her room, we consider that they must be guarding the stones.
The next shot reveals the Mangalore’s tricking their way into the room, shooting the first guard, followed by the Mangalore’s entering with a zoom-in effect ensuing, signifying the shock that the second guard has. The cut-away is then brought back to the Diva, her chant intensifying with every action that happens in the cut-away scenes. Back to the second guard, she too is shot in the stomach. In the next edit the Diva holds her abdomen and is reaching out as if she has been stabbed. This reflects events happening elsewhere. These edits are prepared faster, to create the sense of panic, shock and confusion which the guards felt. Next, a medium-high angle shot of Dallas illustrates him appearing distracted, looking away as if he senses something is not right.
In another cut-away shot, we witness the Mangalore’s filtering into the Diva’s room and Leeloo watching from a corner, livid with fury. A white flashback exposes that she remembers how they destroyed her ship and killed her fellow Mondochiwan. The Diva, she sings and begins to slowly point at Dallas, who is evidently uncomfortable with this. We see how he knows that Diva Plavalaguna knows who he is. The non-diegetic soundtrack of serenity then transforms. At first it is sinister with uncomplimentary chords giving a nauseating feeling. A cut-away shows Leeloo and with the sound bridge carrying this unsettling noise into her shot, we see something inside of her has exploded with anger as she shakes with rage. Returning to the Diva, a shot of her back reminds us of the very first edit in this sequence, before her performance began. This time, however, another performance is about to begin.
The Diva throws her arms down as the non-diegetic soundtrack completely transforms into upbeat techno and as she throws her arms down, a cut-away shot shows the Diva’s room doors being kicked open, hurling the Mangalore’s to the ground, revealing Leeloo standing at the open entrance. The scenes which follow show Leeloo fighting the Mangalore’s to the beat of Diva Plavalaguna’s transformed beat. In one edit, the Diva goes from alto to soprano, building it up in steps. This reflects Leeloo building up strength to give one big punch to a Mangalore, which knocks him out. To climax their performances, both the Diva and Leeloo, conclude with the same pose on the same beat.
With a standing ovation, Dallas’ face is alit with admiration. We know that it would be the same if he had witnessed Leeloo’s performance aswell. An extreme long-shot, of the Diva allows the whole of the audience to fill the screen aswell. It is the first time the Diva is not in complete focus, as this time it is not her that the director wishes us to concentrate on, it is Leeloo. As the leader Mangalore is informed ‘it was an ambush’, we wonder what will happen next as he says, ‘if its war they want, it’s war they’ll get!’.
The connection between Leeloo and the Diva is still happening as Ruby Rhod exclaims ‘Bravo! Bravo!’, Zorg enters the room and compliments Leeloo with ‘Bravo! Bravo, my compliments little lady..’. Subsequent to Leeloo tossing the chest to Zorg and hiding in the air vent, Zorg begins to shoot, and as he does, we observe as the Mangalore’s also begin to shoot and take over the spaceship. The non-diegetic soundtrack recommences, this time it is dramatic with ominous chords accompanied by the diegetic sound of gunshots. The bridge over of the non-diegetic sound not only increases the tension, but again reminds us that the two scenes are connected. The sequence ends with Leeloo trapped in the air vent. Zorg fires his gun and shoots her. At this precise moment, the Diva Plavalaguna is shot aswell, and she falls to the floor of the stage. The non-diegetic music which climaxes this sequence is powerful and intimidating and we know that much danger is still ahead.
Much of the diegetic and non-diegetic sound in this sequence ‘narrated’ the scene. It is clear that in this sequence, editing techniques and sound are essential and are intimately linked. They function to show the viewer the close relation between the fifth element and the four elements inside the Diva. Cinematography works to express who is the focus of this sequence, although mise-en-scene doesn’t play a huge part in contributing to the narrative.
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