Run Lola Run (or its German name, Lola rennt) is an innovative and fascinating film written and directed by the German born Tom Tykwer. The 1998 award winning 81 minute film, though commonly misunderstood and underestimated, is an amalgamation of kinetic order of chaos founded upon theory and the subsequent results. In the film Lola must obtain 100,000 deutsche marks in 20 minutes, as a result of not picking up her frantic boyfriend Manni, so he is not killed for losing the drug money.
The film is then divided into three interludes, of which Lola begins the same but makes small changes in her actions, thus they develop differently and have a varying outcome. Tykwer chose to use German dialect for the entirety of the film with English subtitles and with these surprising interludes the basis is provided for understanding the meaning of each repeat while provoking drama and excitement. Throughout the film there are a continuum of enigmatic comments and quotes throughout the film adding to this famed idea, for example the opening quote from T. S. Eliot; “We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. ” This alludes to the investigation that is contained within our own thoughts and the preparation for the next sequence of events, the key to control and the ultimate outcome of your choice, the selected measured outcome through fortitude, not an ode to chance. A main theme of the film, order formed from chaos, is cleverly depicted through the opening sequence by the close-up shot of numerous legs and bodies poignant in chaos, then to a high angle shot of the multitude forming the title of the film, the inflicted order.
Tykwer chose to emphasize that life can be controlled, depending on your preparation, through the comment from Sepp Herberger; “After the game is before the game. ” Tykwer was implying that precise preparation ultimately leads to the structured sequence of events you want, the parallel between life and games. The use of Franz Paetsch, a famed German story teller, as a narrator offers an identifiable link between a childhood in Germany and the growth afterwards. The performances by Franka Potente (Lola) and Moritz Bleibtreu (Manni) are both purposeful and fitting.
Tykwer used the main character Lola as an idyllic representative of the youth of Germany, an independent and alternative fiery woman. He gave Lola the power to influence, an opposing trait to the traditional German woman, thus society neither appreciates her nor understands her. Throughout the movie Lola dismantles the traditional values and rectifies her mistakes as she continues, expressing her ability to alter the outcome of not only her future but those who she bumps into in her unlikely path until she reaches her desired conclusion.
Her choices, decision and the will to act, are vital to seeing the difference one moment can make. Though Lola has a great desire for mastery, it seems that she is unaware of her multiple lifetimes, the movie replicating a game as Lola learns from one sequence to the other, her ability to avoid the malevolent evil and unexpected obstacles in her way; practice making perfect. Each sequence follows the same base; on her runs she passes a woman with a baby and either bumps into her or not, to the biker that tries to sell Lola his stolen bike.
She then goes to pass Mr. Meyer, her father’s colleague who is pulling out his across a pathway that Lola has to cross and she either jumps over his car or does not causing him to either have an accident with an on-coming vehicle or not, then finally to the lady from her Father’s work who stares at her. Through these multiple sequences we are shown the growth of Lola, the first in which she is a child seeking a quick solution, accepting the callous dismissal from her Father and helping Manni rob the bank, feeling traumatized and powerless.
In the second, Lola is still a child, but this time she provokes action, dimly recognizing her family’s dysfunctionality and attempts to avoid the obstacles by seeking another solution. However in the third she is an adult, aware of her mother’s alcoholism and father’s distance, wise, she takes control. The adult narration and self direction shows refinement and the development of learning mechanisms for coping in particular situations.
Lola’s initial interspersion of thoughts, her ignorance of who she is and who she will become, exhibits the advancement into adulthood, the beginning of true knowledge and a greater insight. Through this film Tykwer exhibits a variety of techniques, without the continuity of editing and adhering to common conventions. Tykwer’s style is not eloquent, showing his view of the chaotic universe, using these techniques to make an unfathomable film. However, this technical brilliance is not fully credited as much of it goes by unnoticed; for example the clever use of 35mm camera and video.
In the scenes where Manni and Lola were on camera, they were shot with on a 35mm, when they were not on screen Tykwer shot the scenes on video. Effectively, this visual style created a false, hazy and dreamlike look at the artificial outside world, while creating the true ‘reality’ of Lola and Manni though clarity, this altered view emphasizes the narrative story and places Lola and Manni at the core of it. More significantly, the use of flash forwards and flash backs, are a key to not only understanding the film but the theories incorporated within.
The flash backs are important to understanding the plot, while the flash forwards are momentous but serve no purpose for understanding the film, purely the predominant theories; as each sequence contains numerous flash forward that show the remarkable changes in the lives of those Lola encounters. Though underestimated each individual outcome varies from one interlude to the next, this predicted future showing the butterfly effect; “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. Tykwer transitioned these by a ‘camera flash,’ generating an emotional response and disrupting the determination of the film. In her runs Lola bumps into an old woman, in the first flash forward she is destitute, her life falling apart as she steals a child as a result of her own baby been taken away from her. In the second interlude she wins the Lotto, has great wealth and prosperity, leading a favoured life with her child. Then to the third, the woman is predicted to have great religious faith and devotes her life to the church.
The biker, in the first interlude is beaten very badly for stealing his bike but falls in love with a nurse and marries her. In the second he is not beaten up but his life becomes insolvent and lonely. Then to the third interlude where there is no flash forward at all. The lady in the hallway who stares at Lola, firstly is predicted to die in a horrible accident, in the second she is shown in kinky situations with a colleague, in the third Lola does not run into her.
There is no convergence of the alternate futures, instead an exponential divergence, the chaotic universe influenced by consequential repercussions of human decision. I have read various reviews comparing Run Lola Run to the 1998 ‘Sliding Doors’ due to the similarity of the parallel lives and differing outcomes, however Run Lola Run is a far more complex and distinctive approach to time manipulation. Nevertheless Tykwer provokes this absent normality and has used the manipulation of time as a recurring theme throughout his other film too, for example ‘Heaven’ and ‘The Princess and The Warrior. ‘Heaven’ is associated for its “defiant romanticism” while ‘The Princess and The Warrior” is compared to Run Lola Run due to the prominence of decisions, fate, that the main character is played by Franka Potente (Lola) and the obvious use of German dialect with English subtitles. Tykwer managed to obtain a range of ideas from his close Polish friend; Krzysztof Kieslowski, the director of both the 1987 ‘Blind Chance’ and the 1991 ‘Double Life of Veronique. The similarities between ‘Blind Chance’ and Run Lola Run being the three structured sequences with differing outcomes and in comparison with ‘The Double Life of Veronique’ the linear narrative and the concept of a parallel universe. In addition Tykwer drew visual inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s film 1958 film ‘Vertigo,’ while the 20 minute time limit was idealized from Old American Western movies with racy action feels. Run Lola Run initially received critical reviews but this high urgency story is a thrilling and dynamic film filled with irony and cleverly exhibits its manifestation of larger themes and deep ideas.
Through both Lola and Manni, Tykwer highlights the importance of reconnection, unity and the complexity of relationships. Crafted through frenzied directing and every cinematic technique you could imagine, Run Lola Run is not a common mass-produced naturalistic Hollywood movie but a hypothetical and profoundly philosophical film that dehumanises, implemented in order to leave the film with a separate mindset and way in which to view the world.