Following the home video release of Luc Besson’s science fiction movie The Fifth Element (1997), a special collectors edition box set was announced, containing within a widescreen VHS copy of the film and also accompanied by a large making of book titled The Story of The Fifth Element. Each box set is individually numbered and inspired by the look of the elemental stones found in the film.
Found on pages 160-161 of The Story of The Fifth Element is an interview with Moebius recalling his time working on the designs of The Fifth Element:
“In 1982 I was really affected by the release of a film called The Last Battle. It was an emotional encounter. Subsequently, I learned about the pre-carious conditions under which the film had been made. In order to make up for the lack of funds, the project seemed based primarily on the resourcefulness, creativity and especially the determination of its very young director.
For a long time it was a cult film, and I was delighted to belong to that group of lone individuals who had been struck by this remarkable talent.
My intuition was soon confirmed: Luc Besson went from one success to another. But I didn’t want to share my special discovery, since the more popular he became, the more my secret cult would vanish…
Ten years went by. Luc Besson was preparing himself for a new battle and asked me if I wanted to take part. It was magic to be face to face with the person who unknowingly has touched you with his imagination. This type of encounter is always moving… Later, I found out that the feeling was mutual. Luc was an avid reader of comic strips. To cut a long story short, brief though our meeting was, it was heartening to know that we both shared the same feelings.
Luc preferred to tell me the story of The Fifth Element rather than giving me the script to read.
It was a colossal adventure, and he described it to me with an enthusiasm and innocence that made me feel like following him – I felt the power of a fearless and boundless imagination.
The Fifth Element: purely playful and entertaining science fiction. Take as a starting point the idea that the universe is as wonderful and terrible as the reality in which we live today. Discover another planet and invent a story of the future based on the basic values of today.
I followed the story with wonder. I was beyond emotion – the images were already in my mind. I felt that he would never make an artificial film, but develop instead a set of themes. I could imagine these as having a slightly esoteric flavour, like his previous films, especially The Big Blue. Luc makes very spectacular, popular films that are imbued with a kind of inner clarity that is neither theoretical nor organic, not even social. It leads the audience to places that dazzle the mind. Does he do this consciously or spontaneously? I’d rather think that he works by instinct…
Drawing is a solitary activity and for someone who is a pathological artist like myself, it was a great pleasure to leave Blueberry to work on a film. In conjunction with the graphic novel I was preparing, I was trying to connect temporarily with the permanent team of The Fifth Element. I was a bit like a repairman who comes in specifically when the idea mechanism has stopped. Luc or Dan Weil called me to inject some fresh air, to bring new energy to the team. This wasn’t easy, as Luc was very sure about certain things and had requirements stipulated for certain key areas, but apart from that, he plunged ahead in complete insecurity. For this film, he had to clear and explore his own unconscious. And as for us, we were as lost as he was – feeling our way around, guessing – we were delving into the process bringing him back “nuggets” of information or nothing at all. And then, as the drawings and designs began to accumulate, the visual universe became clearer.
Collaborating on a project with a team is a shared effort and a constant stimulation. There is a “reassuring” side to working for someone; I find it less stressful. Basically, you’re not alone. Luc was the one who used to say: “Stop, that’s good – don’t touch it anymore!” He was the judge, not me. It’s so hard to do a drawing properly. I had the tendency to search for perfection constantly. Fortunately or unfortunately, schedules stand in the way of the designer’s limitless ambition. He may want to unhook the stars, but he ends up only getting street lamps. So, the lack of time occasionally forces me to let unacceptable details go by, so that I view each graphic novel reprint with dissatisfaction.
In my opinion, the character portrayed by Bruce Willis is a compromise between Blueberry and John Difool. It’s touching, and yet typical at the same time. We all communicate together; you’re part of a cultural interconnection. There’s a little bit of telepathy here; you create comics like others make books or films. It’s a constant exchange – like sharing a mantle of energy.
In working with Luc I discovered a characteristic that I’d already observed in other artists. Here is someone who remains faithful to the dreams of his adolescence – his books, thoughts, tastes and the worlds he was fond of when he was fifteen or sixteen. He has retained an imagination overflowing with the idea that “anything is possible”. He lacks the distant and disdainful view of the confidence of youth, as opposed to many adults who deliberately break contact with their adolescence so that they no longer have to face or endure painful memories. But this decision also means cutting yourself off from all the joy and wonderment of childhood. For me, Luc has the appearance of an adult with all the trappings of authority, responsibility and experience. But he also has learned how to keep the ability to play with reality. I find that his childlike side, which seems misplaced in so many adults, forms the basis of many great artists’ personalities.
Time passes very quickly behind the drawing board. You live, you get on with you life. You dismantle your life and remake it. Then suddenly you look up and realise that time has made a fool of you.
For Luc, The Fifth Element represents years of investment and energy. For me, it remains a lovely memory of an all too short journey that allowed me to travel to another place and time and to meet new and exciting people.
Five years have passed since that time. And I’m happy to look this film with a fresh eye and with the same eagerness and anticipation as the public.”