Run Lola Run (1998)

97

I could mince words, give a long-winded and elaborate opening to make a very simple point, but I feel that would just a disservice, so I will come right out and say it – Run Lola Run (Lola rennt) is one of the best films I have ever seen, and while I don’t normally find the use of hyperbole that effective, I do think it is one of the most extraordinary films I’ve seen in a long time, and one that I can easily see creeping towards becoming one of my all-time favorites, and for a variety of reasons, through the fantastic acting, extraordinary directing and brilliant way Tom Tykwer constructed this film. Run Lola Run represents an absolute high in the canon of German cinema, and a wonderful addition to my already diverse and fascinating exploration into the cinema of Europe.

The film has a very simple premise – Lola (Franka Potente) receives a phone call from her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), desperately needing her help. Manni is a small-time criminal, and after he accidentally misplaced an enormous amount of money, he worries for his life. He needs Lola to find and bring him 100000 Deutsche Marks so that he can pay his dangerous crime boss what he was initially set out to get for him. The catch is that Lola only has twenty minutes to find and deliver the money – and she soon discovers it is far easier said than done, especially because Lola recently had her moped stolen, and her only means of transport is to run (hence the title). What follows is an extraordinary and brilliant thriller that packs far more of a philosophical punch than it initially appears.

What makes Run Lola Run so unique is the way in which it has been told. The director of Run Lola Run is Tom Tykwer, who has always had an eye for the visually flamboyant and narratives that appear simple, but are on another level completely when it comes down to deeper meanings (even the recent A Hologram from the King, which saw Tykwer is superb form as a filmmaker, took a relatively simple story and made it something otherworldly in terms of deeper meaning, and we don’t even need to mention Cloud Atlas in this regard). In Run Lola Run, Tykwer makes use of a very bizarre but ultimately rewarding structure. Taking his cue from Krzysztof Kieślowski’s experimental 1987 art film, Blind Chance (Przypadek), Tykwer constructs this story as told through three different storylines, each one beginning in the same manner, but through chance and fate, become slightly different to the point where there are different outcomes to all three stories. It isn’t an anthology film by any means – and the three storylines are not detached and independent “alternative” versions of Lola’s mission, but rather can be seen as Tykwer’s commentary on the fact that every human being wishes they had the opportunity to revert an event and start from the beginning, again and again.

The acting in Run Lola Run is not what I was expecting – I didn’t calculate exactly, but if I was to estimate, around 80% of this film sees Potente running – and often, Run Lola Run feels like an extended commercial for a gymnasium. Yet, Tykwer and Potente manage to create a character that is fully-rounded and unique, and even if she is silent for quite a bit of the film, and her entire performance consists of running through the streets of Berlin, looking for solutions. Of course, her performance is elevated through the constant interactions with characters, and how in each storyline, all the characters – Lola and the others – are explored and elaborated on, and we learn much from the smaller moments of intimate character study throughout the film.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of action thrillers – mainly because the majority of them sacrifice story progression and character development from being anything other than a grotesque combination of dull and contrived cliches. The vast majority of them are nothing but incredibly boring, and add very little other than entertaining people with their mindless action and ridiculous storylines – but sometimes, an action film is able to be unique and actually brilliant, because as soon as a film can embrace its own absurdity, it becomes more endearing and far more entertaining (which is why I feel the Fast and the Furious franchise are actually pretty great, because instead of trying to be utterly serious, they understand the far-fetched storyline, and become very self-aware of it, and thus the audience doesn’t need to believe this film needs to be good, but can rather be entertained – it is a complicated theory, and one I will probably elaborate more on in the future at some point).

Run Lola Run is a film that understands its own bizarre nature – and the fact that Lola is able to run halfway across Berlin and do everything she supposedly does, in the space of only twenty minutes (and not ever have to stop to catch her breath) is utterly unbelievable, yet the audience never once loses all faith in the fact that Lola is able to accomplish this mission in the way that she does. It reminds me of the similarly bizarre, and equally wonderful film Lucy, which clearly is somewhat influenced by Run Lola Run, if only just as spiritual film cousins.

The best part about Run Lola Run is how thrilling it is – there was not a single moment in this film where I was bored, and even the few and far-between moments of quiet philosophical discussion were incredibly fascinating – and one can owe this to the fact that Run Lola Run is very brief on its run-time, with a duration of only about 75 minutes – the brevity of this film kept the adrenaline pumping, and even though it is short (and there was enough material in here to fill up a two-hour run-time), it doesn’t leave any plot point unfinished, and everything is neatly resolved to create a satisfying and fair ending to a wonderful film. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, and even if some moments in the film did feel somewhat unconvincing, I was totally captivated, and I applaud Tykwer for creating such a tense but entertaining film, and it certainly needs to be seen as the paramount of filmmaking that it is – a genre-bending, cinematically inventive and technically impressive thriller with a simple story and a fascinating execution.

Run Lola Run is certainly worth seeking out if you have not seen it. It is such a brilliantly eccentric and wonderfully constructed film, and its execution far surpasses the simplicity of the story – and considering so many action films do the opposite of this – squander a wonderfully complex story with mediocre and amateur execution, Run Lola Run is as intellectually stimulating as it is entertaining in terms of being an adrenaline-pumping action thriller. I think Run Lola Run is truly extraordinary, and represents one of the most unique filmmaking nations at its very best.

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