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Are we worth saving?


In the famous film The Fifth Element, Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) poses a challenging rhetorical question to Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) : What's the use in saving life when you see what you do with it? (Watch here). She is speaking 250 years in the future, where life as we know it is threatened by the arrival of Evil. Only Leeloo (the "Fifth Element") can stop Great Evil from extinguishing life. Leeloo is the vulnerable but "supreme being" that comes as human being to save humanity.

To accomplish her task she has to activate the four elemental stones of earth, wind, fire and rain, with her self in the middle as the "fifth element" that is forged into the ultimate weapon against Great Evil. It is at this point of salvation, inside the temple of stones, that Leeloo becomes disillusioned and unwilling to perform the role. She comes to realise that human beings are themselves so evil that they are not worth saving. Any “salvation” will be temporarily at best because in the end human beings are destined to destroy themselves.

Just when hope seems lost, the smitten Korben steps in to resolve her moral quandary. He has fallen in love with her and can't bear to lose it all now. He reasons with her that human beings are worth saving because we are basically good - and more importantly we have love! And so he puts it practise by professing his love for her, embracing and kisses her. And with that spark of"divine light of love" a weapon is forged in her that reaches to the cosmos and causes Great Evil to become a new moon in Earth's orbit. Human beings are saved. Love conquers all!

Director Luc Besson stated in an interview that the film's theme was an important one. He wanted viewers to reach the point where Leeloo asks that question and actually agree with her. Presumably not into despondency but in order for them to share Korben's response that we are worth saving because of the "sparkle" of divine light within us. This love is the source of our saviour. Through that light of love we are able to extinguish all great evil when are in harmony with nature, like Leeloo does in the film! 

Besson is certainly right that Leeloo's rhetorical question is an important one. It seems obvious that in a world without God life is without purpose. Coupled with the fact that there appears something within the human nature that gravitates towards evil Leeloo’s has a point. And at the same time she points to an anomaly in the human drama. Life appears not to function as we expect it to. We desire for life to be unending, but yet we confront mortality at every corner. On this point Leeloo rightly recognises the depravity of man and necessity of judgement! 

If Leeloo question is helpful, Korben's response is erroneous. To be sure he is correct that human beings are valuable. The real question is the basis and nature of that value, and what it consequently means for man's salvation in general. Korben says we are valuable because we are capable of loving. We have the light of love in us that makes us worthwhile. But such a basis for man's uniqueness immediately runs into many problems. 

Love in the movie is largely expressed "erotically". Is that really what make us unique? But even if we allowed for different forms of love, we face the challenge that love means different things to different people. And what of those who have no love for others? Are they not worth saving? Then comes even harder questions. Are we worthwhile as human beings because we love or do we love because we see worth in others? But even if love in life is the ultimate reality, we still need to ask: why should the fact that we are loving beings ground the value of salvation? Who gives this supposed love in us value, to warrant saving it? 

Once again it seems man's attempt to ground meaning to our existence runs into trouble. The Bible alone offers the answer to our deepest problem. It starts with, "in the beginning God" (Genesis 1:1). The words alone mean there's no meaning to anything independent of God. Human beings are valuable because we are created by God in his own likeness. But crucially the Bible reminds us that being God’s creatures alone does not mean we are worth saving! We are fallen and sinful creatures. There's nothing desirable about us worth saving! Rather God in his infinite and undeserved mercy has chosen to make us objects of his affection. All repent turn to him now become His precious children! So at one level we infinitely precious, but that preciousness is not in ourselves but is on the account of the relationship with Him who is Infinitely Precious! 

So then armed with this knowledge we must reject the dangerous teaching embedded in the film. The Fifth Element cleverly uses Leelo's challenging question to open a gateway of idolatry. It wishes to encourage us to dismiss the sinfulness of man by appealing to the “divine light of love”, declaring boldly we deserve living forever without condemnation or judgement. It wishes to encourage us to look inwards to our inner light of love rather than turn to Jesus our God for repentance and forgiveness. 

From the beginning to end the Fifth Element is riddled with dangerous new age motifs. In the final scene it reminds us that all reality in effect belongs to the same energy which takes many forms. So accordingly we we have the bizarre outcome of Great Evil becoming the "second moon" ( a metaphor perhaps of "helpful evil" often taught in the occult). Even the score echoes the same dangers. The final song is Serra Eric’s “Little Light of Love” which says “only one religion will lead us to the love we aim for…”. What religion? He answers “a little light of soul religion”. The film’s dangerous subtle messages are a reminder of the need for us watch cinema with eyes wide open! Lest we are led astray!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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