Imagery in Jean-Luc Besson’s “Lucy”

· Essay

Spoiler Alert: This article, because of an emphasis on the analysis of imagery, rather than a standard movie review, reveals details, such as the ending, which would lessen enjoyment of the film for most viewers. 

We find that the film deals with light and darkness. Darkness eventually prevails.


Jean-Luc Besson’s movies have a certain blend which makes science fiction palatable to mass audiences, unlike the overly academic works of movies based on novels of Heinlein, Dick, Bradbury, and their Russian equivalents, such as the Strugatsky brothers.  I will admit to enjoying the first two installments of Star Wars, but after that, the deterioration was into darkness, and finally, lack of originality.  Star Trek, and the Australian attempts at the genre did not impress me either.

But frankly, Besson’s works are excessively violent, Transporter star Jason Stratham seems to dedicate himself to no other description of rôles.

Violence then, becomes an invariant theme, but with his 2014 production, Lucy, there is an attempt at an intellectual component, a theme of total enlightenment, the only possible course after attaining 100 % of one’s mental capacity.

In the following, we draw out the parts of the movie which emphasize the quest of the main character for illumination.  It is, we shall see, knowledge without wisdom, as the lead character’s abilities are limited by the director’s need to show action.  The final creation of a creature who becomes a superior being is to pander to commercial interests.

We then show how it might be possible that M. Besson uses Lucy the character as a proxy for his own thinking.  It is all very hypothetical, but, if the assumptions made are true, it shows Besson to be a master at imbedding hidden ideas into his work.

In Lucy, Besson offers up a female victim on the altar of diversity, the American among German, French, and Italian mules for an Asian crime syndicate which includes a British-accented, shall we say, syndic; while Lucy’s side-kick is necessarily French.  Sure, the altar is not traditional, it is a chair, and it might even be said, Lucy sacrifices herself, – we are to suppose – for the good of sharing all her knowledge. This is not what she would have known at the beginning of the tale, when her most ardent desires are rest, a bath, and to study for an examination. So the slightly benighted, benumbed by drink heroin has her heart in the right place, if not her wits.

The altruism is much less than it seems, it is that of a very selfish gene which Jean-Luc employs to sacrifice his star at the end of the movie, while parading the whole series of secular viewpoints from survival-of-the-fittest Darwinism; the selfish gene; scientific socialism; mercy-killing through a scene of triage; life – in this case human, being the result of a possible agent from beyond our planet; and the  argument that evolution to be followed by revolution.  As shown here, not quite with the ideals of the French Revolution, igualité and fraternité go quite by the roadside, there is a predominance of elites and figures of authority.

Sure, there is a brief touch of religious symbolism, which means nothing in the context of the whole.  Jean-Luc has the names of two of the four evangelists, meaning nothing, in that there were two Judases among the apostles; the one who sold Jesus and then killed himself, being the better-known of the two.

Scenes from the Beginning

We have, near the beginning of the movie, a part of Michelangelo’s Creation, found in the Sistine Chapel.  The Finger of God reaches out to that of Adam.  That symbolism is seen later on, when our contemporary Lucy goes through time, forward and back into time.  From her at one moment celestial throne, Lucy in the sky descends, and extends her finger to that of the beetle-browed pre-Neanderthal Lucy who is supposed to be our first ancestor.  This is tantamount to the theory that the earth’s primeval soup was seeded to give life from the influence of a comet, if not from some beings from another planet.

That little touch, the finger from the being of another planet, it seems, we’ve seen in Spielberg’s E.T.  The cute melds with an ersatz God.

This attachment by moderns to the simian as a replacement for the Rousseauistic noble savage is sickening.  By all means, allow them their habitat and their freedom, but when monkeys are given the same rights as we have, it is affirmed that we are no better than (some) animals.

From a secular point of view, how much more beautiful would have been, instead of this cyle of Lucy engendering the intelligence of Austrolopithecus, something like Botticelli’s Venus arising from the sea.  After all, it is claimed that mammals did originate there.

An older mythological figure is that of the birth of Helen of Troy, not ab ovo, as Horace stated (from the egg), but we would like to believe that the correction creation story is actually more politically correct, ab Eva, with Adam included.

There is no denying an almost religious beauty to the first part of the movie.  We start with the premise that “Lucy” comes from the word meaning “light”.  While we know nothing of Lucy’s genesis, the Book of Genesis has light created in its third verse.  The blonde Lucy, a bit of a party girl, nevertheless exudes a certain innocence, a reluctance to try the forbidden her snake of a boy-friend suggests.  Unlike Eve, she does resist, but the wiles of the wicked do overpower her, and deliver her into a heart of darkness.

At the beginning, she is even dressed, Eve-like, in the modern equivalent of animal skins, especially her coat, while her dress is some kind of colourful variation of zebra. Here Besson exceled, though with contradiction.  While her boyfriend tries to manipulate her, we see a mouse contemplating the cheese in a trap.  Her entry into the den of iniquity, is spliced with scenes of a gazelle being chased by leopards.  The irony is that her clothing has more in common with the big cats, than with the ruminants.

When she comes to, after a certain operation to convert her into a drug carrier, we see a snake or dragon-head image in the gang’s lair.

Her chance at redemption comes through her suffering – that shared with the three men who were hooked into the same snare, and that which was meted out to her by criminals not the least bit chivalrous.

From that point, we go to the idea of “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.  Whether it is true or not that we only use 10 % of our brain capacity, something I heard in primary school from a science teacher, is beside the point.  We can go along for the ride.

Her strength becomes that of Samson. She escapes from her chains.  But she shares none of the morality of the traditional Superman, who never killed, but delivered deliquents to the authorities.  She does not share with Spiderman a thought such as “With great power comes great responsibility”.  She kills left and right, as those military dictatorships which would eliminate first the subversives, and finally the indifferent.  A taxi-driver is killed, because he does not understand English.  Perhaps this was a euphemism for English, not to say, American, exceptionalism.  We might imagine that in the French version, the cabbie was killed for not understanding French.  Ditto for German, and Italian, and the other major languages in which the movie may have been released.  The speakers of those languages, too, at one time, had their empires and kings, who lorded it over their subjects.

Lucy, in need of an operation, finally arrives at a hospital.  With her now superior intelligence, she decides that the patient in the operating room has no chance of life.  She puts a bullet into him, and takes his place, demanding immediate surgery. Clearly, an exceptional woman.  Inferiors, out of the way!

These two preceding points, her killing of the taxi-driver, and the subsequent shooting of a hospital patient, show that Lucy possesses the ultimate of the selfish gene, if we go by Richard Dawkin’s theory.

Descent into Mayhem and Disappearance

The rest of the movie is largely mayhem.  She drives recklessly through the streets of Paris, causing countless accidents, and probably deaths.  This is a weak part of the plot, in that Lucy can control matter, but instead relies on such mundane means of mobility.  But after a few demonstrations of control over matter, the director probably felt it necessary to continue with the standard movie clichés.

At some point during the beginning, and more so at the end, we see images that evoke galaxies, quasars, and the creation of stars.  These are to suggest the changes within Lucy’s body, a transformation hinted at earlier in the saga, when it is said that cells aim for either immortality or reproduction.  The part about immortality is not well explained – it is supposedly a quest for self-sufficiency and self-management.  The examples given explain little, but we do see that Lucy manages the trick in the end.

Having donned a black dress, which in the Hexenhammer is given as a clue to the presence of a witch, an an opinion shared by a couple of members of the crime syndicate, we come near the end,

The people in her presence are bathed in light, but she, attached to the black writhings of the “computer”, after starting to turn into a muddy colour, and bodily transformations of her members, with twisting trunks and roots, all black,  reminiscent of horror films, makes a computer in which her knowledge will be stored.  At one point, the computer starts growing stalagmites reminiscent of Superman’s memory crystals in his Artic Fortress of Solitude, as seen in the 1978 with Christopher Reeve. But instead of a pristine beauty, they glow red as hot coals, a demonic mixture.

Finally she disappears into blackness, a dark invisibility which only marks her bodily form. She is then gone.  Considering that this was done while injecting about 6 pounds (3 kilos) of drug into her body, we might say she was really high, she could fly, she was Lucy in the sky.

To the question of where she is, through the computer she has developed, conveniently identified with the name of a well-known Asian manufacturer, rather than with the name of its supposed creator, she answers with a blasphemous, “I am everywhere”.  Earlier on, time had been given as that which governs all, the unit of measure, but we may suppose that she is.

Given that her reaction was that of a possessed person, when the drug was released within her bloodstream, and given all of the preceding, plus the deaths which she caused without any moral compunction, the movie can be considered as Satanic for all believers in the Devil.  Leviathan, and Legion, too, are everywhere.

Considering that she, despite doctor’s warnings about the danger of the drug, craved it all, there seems to be a promotion of the drug culture.

In the light of the senseless killings, we get a message that our lives our worthless, to be exploited by those who can.  The death of the crime boss at the end of the movie was nothing but a trivial detail after everything else which transpired.

It is good escapist entertainment for those that can handle it, it is morally corrupting for those without discernment.  Granted, Lucy did say that evil and chaos in the world was caused by ignorance, but one might ask, why, when she was already superior to all other humans, did she herself resort to wickedness?

We believe that the preceding question has already been answered.

Imagery Crossovers: From Lucy to Luc

In this section, we analyze the potential use of imagery by Besson in using Ms. Johansen as his star. No defamation of any kind is meant to be inferred, as we only attempt to show the director’s creativity. If there is any connection, he is brilliant.


We might add a bit of additional symbolism by thinking that Jean-Luc has half his name embedded in Lucy.  We do believe he is totally absorbed in this work, which he not only produced, but wrote.  So, both Luc and Lucy are light.  The name Lucifer means light-bearer.  Modern biblical translations give “morning star”, translated as “lucero” in Spanish, sounding too much like Lucifer.

Connections between "Lucy", Scarlett, Freeman, and Besson

Connections between “Lucy”, Scarlett, Freeman, and Besson

Besson by his writing may show a Faustian tendency towards obtaining knowledge.  Only Mephistopheles has become modern science.  By skipping the demon, we skip God.  It is scientific socialism.

Lucy and Digital Phenomena

Lucy also transcends the robot of the movie Short Circuit.  She has no need to flip through the pages of countless books, demanding “Input”.  Her input comes through digital technology.

There are already predictions that we may have chips implanted to help our brain in the future – or to help us be controlled.  As the mafia said before sending out the four mules, they had the names of family members, and would kill those of whomever did not make delivery.  The only difference to how the criminals got their information, and Lucy got hers, is one of place and speed.

January 10,11, 2015.

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