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Section Header
The Fifth Element
American Cover

International Cover

Composed, Arranged, and Produced by:
Eric Serra

Orchestrated by:
Hubert Bougis

Labels and Dates:
Virgin Records (American)
(May 6th, 1997)

EMI/Virgin Music (International)
(May 20th, 1997)

Also See:
The Messenger

Audio Clips:
15. The Diva Dance (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

19. No Cash No Trash (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

22. Pictures of War (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

24./26. Mix of "Protect Life" and "Aknot! Wot?" (0:42):
WMA (267K)  MP3 (333K)
Real Audio (208K)

Both the American and international albums were regular releases in May 1997. The American one remained in print for ten years while the international pressing commands up to $35. Their contents are the same.


The Fifth Element

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Sales Rank: 248810

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Buy it... only if you are fond of the film itself, for Eric Serra's score is nothing more than a frightfully obnoxious and loyal souvenir from an equally insufferable film.

Avoid it... if you refuse to own any reggae, techno, opera, rap, pop, and classical film score (all in one) that explicitly mixes the sounds of a female orgasm into its ranks.

The Fifth Element: (Eric Serra) What? $100 million bought this? Luckily, nothing about the production of The Fifth Element took itself seriously, or the film would literally have been among the worst ever promoted as a summer blockbuster. Director Luc Besson's completely nonsensical 23rd Century adventure flick is about as corny and dumb as a film can possibly be, but at least it looks incredible. If ever there was a definition of eye candy, it would be The Fifth Element. Trying to explain the plot would be futile, but for the purpose of reviewing the soundtrack for the film, it's also unnecessary. That's because the film jumps around in style and genre so often that Besson's usual collaborator, Eric Serra, was forced to write music that jumped through the same hoops while also extending the obvious sense of humor that Besson was giving the topic. In the end, all that mattered was that, from a compositional standpoint, The Fifth Element was the perfect opportunity to write the ultimate parody score, and only a few hints here and there of a serious dramatic edge distract from its wacky, strange, and psychotic stance. Serra had not endeared himself to the American film score community by 1997; his score for Goldeneye was a definite low point in the James Bond franchise, and David Arnold had not yet washed out that sour aftertaste. Serra's often wild and highly unpredictable methodology, as well as his work with Besson in Europe, had given him the label of a rising star in the late 1990's, but he never took advantage of that opportunity. If anything, his music for The Fifth Element was so appropriately bizarre that it may have done little more than prove that he could be obnoxious in nearly every genre of music in existence. It's a score that's impossible to either recommend or trash, if only because it is perfect for its film. It just so happens that the film is so outrageously stupid that any music that rides along for the ride is doomed to cause some head-scratching.

As in most scores, however, the soundtrack for The Fifth Element does feature some highlights. Serra does indeed provide a main theme for the film, though a casual browsing of the album will barely reveal it. This theme is the only truly orchestral idea in the entire effort, representing the concept of humanity (and, to a lesser extent, its savior in the form of Milla Jovovich) that is threatened in the story's barely lucid plotline. This theme is previewed in "Koolen," but finally receives full treatment on strings in "Leeloominai," "Human Nature," and "Protect Life." During a particularly disturbing sequence about the history of war, this theme receives a brief blast of disharmony ("Pictures of War"). The three or four minutes of this theme's statements on the album will definitely not be worth the price for standard orchestral score collectors, because the remainder of the score makes absolutely no sense. Serra flips the pages of every genre during the effort, from the electronic droning of a suspense score to the hip reggae of a romantic comedy in the Caribbean. The historical parts of the plot are handled with heavily cliched Middle Eastern string movements over incongruous pop rhythms while the forces of evil are provided with pounding electronic hits, intentionally harsh and nearly intolerable, and with the occasional help of a chorus. To call The Fifth Element eclectic wouldn't do it justice, with violent mood swings at every turn. Somewhat more consistent is Serra's use of looped drum pads and the incorporation of sound effects, highlighting the theme for "Korben Dallas" (Bruce Willis). The three songs prominently featured in The Fifth Element could not be any more diverse themselves. While "Little Light of Love" is the somewhat standard European-sounding rock piece heard over the end credits, the rap song "Ruby Rap" simply makes you want to throttle Chris Tucker. The opera piece performed on the cruise ship in space ("Lucia di Lammermoor") is beautifully performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Inva Mulla Tchako. The transformation of the piece into a modern dance bonanza in the following "The Diva Dance" is frighteningly interesting in an exotic way.

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Serra's expansive use of not only his vast library of synthetic rhythms and sound effects, but also those directly from the film is intriguing and, if it catches you in the right mood, quite funny. The sounds of meowing cats, banging doors, random guitar strumming, and sloshing water are catchy, but their mixing is harsh and bombastic and therefore highly distracting. Serra is sure to make it known that this technique is done for purely humorous reasons by the time you get to "Aknot! Wot?," the concluding track on the album. This recording takes the hip rhythm from the "Korben Dallas" cue and accentuates every musical aspect of it before inserting snippets of spoken dialogue and many more sound effects from the film in synch with its movement. This cue is both hilarious and utterly intolerable, perhaps the most awkwardly unique single track appearing on any soundtrack album in the 1990's. If you need something to drive away potential mates or make nearby drivers flee you at intersections, crank up "Aknot! Wot?." The sounds of female orgasms alone could do the trick. Overall, this score was obviously written to deviate from the norm. Because it matches the careless and flamboyant personality of the film, you can't denigrate Serra for producing it. At the same time, however, it's a nearly impossible score to sit through from start to finish, because along the journey through the genres of reggae, techno, opera, rap, pop, and classical, the album fails to convey any kind of connecting tool with which to identify the whole work. It serves as, in many ways, a promotional sampler of Serra's talents, and while you might be inclined to take three or four tracks off of the album for your own compilation, the entirety of the album fails. Thus, it wasn't surprising to see almost every film score reviewer give The Fifth Element a neutral rating. If you lived in Fhloston Paradise, then it might work, but on 21st Century Earth, it just doesn't make sense. If not for the fact that the album (with several different covers released internationally, all containing the same music within) has been out of print and expensive, the "Aknot! Wot?" track alone would be worth some morbid curiosity. You couldn't get a better souvenir from the film anywhere else. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.06 Stars
Smart Average: 3 Stars*
***** 1704 
**** 1691 
*** 2462 
** 2089 
* 1187 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   A reviewer who completely missed the boat
  Walt D -- 8/1/10 (10:44 p.m.)
   A year later, still not about the Diva Danc...
  Richard Kleiner -- 3/28/10 (1:23 a.m.)
   suck a dick
  [bleep!] you -- 2/6/10 (2:09 a.m.)
   Not about the Diva Dance
  Richard Kleiner -- 5/9/09 (10:36 p.m.)
   Re: The Diva Dance
  Marcato -- 2/3/09 (10:34 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings (All Albums): Total Time: 62:54

• 1. Little Light of Love - performed by R.X.R.A. (4:50)
• 2. Mondoshawan (4:01)
• 3. Timecrash (1:49)
• 4. Korben Dallas (1:43)
• 5. Koolen (0:55)
• 6. Akta (1:51)
• 7. Leeloo (4:56)
• 8. Five Millenia Later (3:13)
• 9. Plavalaguna (1:47)
• 10. Ruby Rap (1:55)
• 11. Heat (2:54)
• 12. Badaboom (1:12)
• 13. Mangalores (1:06)
• 14. Lucia di Lammermoor - performed by Inva Mulla Tchako (3:10)
• 15. The Diva Dance - performed by Inva Mulla Tchako (1:31)
• 16. Leeloominai (1:41)
• 17. A Bomb in the Hotel (2:14)
• 18. Mina Hinoo (0:54)
• 19. No Cash, No Trash (1:04)
• 20. Radiowaves (2:32)
• 21. Human Nature (2:03)
• 22. Pictures of War (1:19)
• 23. Lakta Ligunai (4:14)
• 24. Protect Life (2:33)
• 25. Little Light of Love - performed by R.X.R.A. (3:29)
• 26. Aknot! Wot? (Bonus Track) (3:35)

 Notes and Quotes:  

Neither insert includes any extra information about the score or film. The American album features Courier "type-writer" font on its packaging that is very difficult to read

  All artwork and sound clips from The Fifth Element are Copyright © 1997, Virgin Records (American), EMI/Virgin Music (International). The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 5/10/97 and last updated 3/25/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.