While we at Cinedelphia are all avid film buffs, there are many films that are held in high regard that we haven’t seen. As we cross them off our collective List of Shame, we’ll share our thoughts here!
Run Lola Run is such a super-efficient clockwork exercise of a film it finds the truth in that German stereotype. The film depicts three timelines, or “runs,” of a woman named Lola (Franka Potente) trying to aid her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) who is in financial hot water. It fundamentally remains a philosophical exercise, but also doesn’t shy away from presenting a hypnotic flashy style and propulsive soundtrack.
I am a huge fan of the time travel subgenre, and while I am not sure this directly qualifies, it certainly brings up many issues that are often explored in other similar works. There is an undercurrent of destiny vs. freewill in Run Lola Run, but like all smart takes on the subject, it leaves its answer entirely ambiguous. Rather than delving into the metaphysical and ontological questions raised by the film, I’ll focus more on the effect this structure has on how we perceive the events in the film. What’s more interesting is the idea of being able to learn from one’s own mistakes and retroactively applying them to one’s life.
While the events in Lola aren’t played for existential quandaries as in Primer, or for comedic effect like in Time Freak, the final timeline clearly depicts Lola applying knowledge from her previous two attempts. The first two runs have a high body count, with either Lola or Manni dying at the end of each, while the third timeline shows a chaos theory-like approach (and perhaps some of Lola’s magical probability and glass breaking powers) as the solution to Manni’s dilemma. It seems to say that only by remaining true to moral principles and helping each other can we solve our own problems.
I also thought a lot about the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode from Commmunity (the one with all the timelines) while watching this film. While the characters in that episode don’t appear to have direct knowledge of the other timelines as they occur, Abed seems to perceive that seemingly trivial events can have a huge impact on our lives, our relationships, and our futures. As third person viewers, we are treated to various outcomes based on the roll of a die, passing through these differing realities in a way the characters can only imagine. However, the most important commonality between “Remedial Chaos Theory” and Run Lola Run is the impact these trivialities can have on the relationships in our lives.
There are a lot of relationships, both personal and societal, presented in Run Lola Run. First, Lola clearly loves Manni if she is risking life and limb to get him 100,000 DM (about 50,000 euro currently, I think) in 20 minutes. She is even willing to help him commit robbery, and although she remains adverse to hurting people who get in their way, it isn’t entirely out of the question. They remind me a lot of Honey Bunny and Pumpkin from Pulp Fiction, two lovers who seem to take up robbery because it’s more thrilling than working at a desk or behind a cash register. We never get much background for either set of characters except for their aversion to actual violence whilst capitalizing on the appearance of being a credible threat. We understand they are driven to desperation based on their striving for an alternative lifestyle, but the driving force is their love and co-enabling.
Lola’s relationship with her father may be the most interesting aspect of the film, especially considering the differences between the first two timelines and his absence in the final one. During the first run, Lola learns that her Papa isn’t her biologocial father, and that he is leaving his family to elope with his mistress. In the second run, Lola hears that her Papa is also not the biological father of his mistress’ unborn child, making him one of the few double cuckholded men in cinema (as far as I know). How Lola sees her Papa drastically changes based on the random timing of her appearance. Both of these timelines end in death, and it is evident that Lola has a much more positive outcome in her life when her father isn’t a part of the picture, which happens because the timing changes so she just misses him.
The societal relationships we see also turn on seemingly random chance. How we interact with strangers on the street can drastically change their lives or our own. This is shown in the film via flashforward snapshots, that shows the near future of some of the people Lola encounters. For example, in the first run, the poor woman kidnaps a baby, in the second, she wins the lottery, and in the third she has a religious conversion, all based on things that would seem innocuous to Lola.
I mentioned the soundtrack at the beginning, and it is an integral part of what makes Run Lola Run special. Much of it is also contributed by writer/director Tom Tykwer, and its unbound energy serves to reinforce the forward movement throughout the film. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the constant motion on the screen, but listening to it solo on headphones makes me feel like there is a rave inside my skull. Listening in a car might just be fatal.
Run Lola Run is the perfect demonstration that a film’s runtime is no excuse for a lack of depth. Tykwer’s film allows for hours of discussion and thought on just 81 minutes of film.