There are some films that bear watching many times over, and Luc Besson’s ‘The Fifth Element’ has been tested by a number of TV reshowings recently. With Chris Tucker and Gary Oldman taking on two of the gorgeously flamboyant character parts, this futuristic sci-fi adventure rests on the age-old story device of an approaching evil from outer space which intends the earth’s destruction. Bruce Willis, at his anti-authoritarian best, becomes the unlikely saviour figure who helps secure a future for earth’s people beyond the threatened evil. It’s great fun – and tries in its own way to answer the question posed at the heart of the film : what’s the use of saving the earth if this is what people do with it? ( Cue any number of devastating images of war, environmental disaster and human suffering.) The film itself is now 20 years old, and yet the challenge of that question and those images remains.
Interestingly, this Sunday marks the crossing of a threshold in our churches into the season known as Advent, with its strong themes of darkness and light, of waiting in hope, and of preparing for the coming of a saviour. There are strong words to be met in the biblical stories of Advent – such as tenderness, justice, peace, promise, trust – and a cast of characters every bit as engaging as those in ‘ The Fifth Element.’ Sadly, though, there will be no role for the muscle-bound, wise-cracking, world-weary hero that Bruce Willis channelled so delightfully. The saviour who emerges at the culmination of the Advent journey is a vulnerable child, born in an out-of-the-way place, to an ordinary couple who themselves have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
If you are using an Advent calendar this year you will already have opened the first of those 25 doors – and it’s a lovely way of marking a journey through these Advent days. May you arrive at a place of warmth and safety; may you find a blessing in the Christ-child this Christmastide.