Tuesday, April 6, 2010

REVIEW: Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run
Director: Tom Tykwer
Year 1998

Run Lola Run is an off the rails, pulse pounding German film that follows a young woman by the name of Lola, played by my favorite German lass Franka Potente, as she struggles to deliver 100,000 Deutschmarks to her endangered boyfriend before he decides to rob a grocery store for his lost funds. Franka is amazing in this movie and she left quite an impression on me when I first viewed this film back in college for one of my History of Film courses. Her vivid performance along with her equally vivaciously flaming red hair was just phenomenal. Her portrayal of the character Lola and the actual film has stayed with me ever since that first viewing.

Caller: What are you wearing?
Lola: A grey tank top with red hair.
Caller: Oh. Sexy.

Director Tom Tykwer really melds this story of second chances (and third chances) with a vibrant eye and fervent ear. The story blasts forward, pushed by a constantly kinetic techno soundtrack voiced by starring actress Franka Potente as she blazes through the streets to save her boyfriend. This is one of the best soundtracks that I've ever heard. The unrelenting bass and striking beats, paint such an intense visual image that it accompanies Tom Tykwer's stirring imagery to help make it into a modern marvel of cinematic delights. This film is felt and heard just as much as it is seen.

A striking shot of a red phone, mimicking Lola's wild hair color.

Our story starts out with Lola getting a phone call from her desperate boyfriend named Manni played by the always watchable Moritz Bleibtreu. He has lost 100,000 Deutschmarks on the subway and the people the money belongs to are not too happy. Manni tells Lola that he has 20 minutes until the money is due and if he doesn't have it by then he's in for a world of hurt. He also says that if she can't find the money in time, then he's going to rob the grocery store across the street from where he's calling from. 

There's some pretty interesting angles in this film.
Like the looking up Manni's nose angle. Sweet.

Lola desperately wants to help, so she springs into action and sets off to find a way to obtain the cash. The sequences where she is running through the city on her way to her father's bank are excellently shot and spare no expense on the flare of the moment. These lively shots married with the equally lively music make for some astonishing and memorable instances. These are the moments the film thrives on and once the wheels are set into motion, there's nothing to hold back the story from unfolding as it rushes by at break neck speeds.

With a title like Run Lola Run, did you really
think you weren't going to see Lola run?

What makes this film so impressive, visuals and audio aside, is the concept of giving the main character a second chance to obtain her intended goal of saving her boyfriend. We are treated to a recurring theme as Lola fails to save Manni and then is granted a chance to start her day over and see if she can change things up and succeed. Watching each day begin anew and witnessing Lola as she interacts with the world around her, learning from her previous mistakes, is quite enjoying and enthralling to see play out. Her choices not only effect her life, but the people that she passes, as she travels through the city.

Between each ending and restart, we are given an intimate conversation between Lola and Manni as they lay naked in bed, glazed over by a reddish hue that burns onto the screen. These moments are precious because it's the only real reaction we get between the two lovers and it's a great way to show how much they care about each other. It brings their love story front and center and reminds us why Lola is doing all she can for this man. They're great moments.

Looks like it's the red light special for Lola and Manni.

This play on second chances is really intriguing and yet it's not something that's possible in the real world, but the film is put together so perfectly that it's accepted as possible in the reality that Tom Tykwer has created for the parameters of the film. You could ground it in a concept like time travel, like in the film Timecrimes that I reviewed earlier on this blog, or you could give it a more supernatural aspect like in Christopher Smith's 2009 Sci-Horror, Triangle, which I will be reviewing also. Both ways are great and work for each film, but with Run Lola Run, Tom Tykwer opts to go the more free form route and abstractly throws out the concept to the audience and allows the journey the characters take to sell us on the idea of second chances. It's never written or spelled out for us. We are just taken on faith that this is the way it works in this world and I personally think it gives the film a more poetic leg to stand on.

Damn it feels good to be a gangsta!

This poetic approach moves throughout the film, transforming the story into a modern day fairy tale. All the characters seem birthed from some kind of fantasy while they all have interconnecting stories that never veer far from each other when Lola begins trying to change the layout of their paths. Everyone converges back to each other and all are effected no matter how differently the story unfolds. It's a refreshing tale and told with such whimsy and spirit that it fits perfectly.

Get your filthy hands off my car you damn dirty red-haired freak!

The shifting narrative is quite amazing, but each time you see the futility of it all as Lola again fails to save her boyfriend. The simple idea of an ever changing repeating story is brilliant alone, but Tom Tykwer adds the much needed detail to make it stand out as something far more special then the run of the mill groundhog day effect films. He proceeds to show in quick flashes of still images, the lives of the people that Lola touches. Each person's life is changed drastically, both in good ways and bad, just from a simple decision like jumping over a dog in the stairwell rather then tripping over it and tumbling down the stairs causing you a few precious seconds as you pick yourself up. That small detail adds to a changed world, one that Lola enters out into, over and over, to make things right.

Many of Lola's attempts end in tragedy.

There's also a few quirky elements that add to the feel of the film that Tom places into his editing. For instance, there's a recurring sequence that happens right after Lola hangs the phone up and leaves her apartment. We are treated to an animation of Lola as she descends the stairwell dealing with various things before plunging into the real world as she exits her apartment building. It's a strange choice but one that brings a certain flavor and a likable quality to Lola's character. Almost as if she sees herself as some super hero cartoon on her way to save Manni. The quick segment is cute and it contributes well to the tempo and lucid spirit of the film.

Lola in bug-eyed cartoon form as she starts on her recurring journey.

The obstacles that Lola has to hurdle on her way to saving Manni are all set up with brilliant pacing and genius ingenuity. Traveling alongside Lola in all her desperate follies and inevitable victory is such an enjoyable ride and one that Tom Tykwer has logically put together with great respect to the material that he has birthed. This epic journey is one that is original and genuinely full of spirit thanks to the impeccable direction of Tykwer and the superb acting skills of both Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu.

Cue the Spice Girls song, "When Two Become One".

Run Lola Run is a film that you truly must see. There's something special and magical about the whole thing and the film brings a spirit with it that has not been seen many times in the cinema world. Tom Tykwer wrote and directed a film that will cement himself in the eyes of his fans and any that come to know this beautifully intimate film. In a world where nothing is certain and the path to save the people we love is always cloudy, its captivating to see a film that tackles such heavy subject manner and is able to do it with such flare and visual pizzaz that it instantly wins over any cynical mind and makes you believe in the miracle of cinema. This film does all of that and it's a must for anyone that has a love for movies and stories of the human heart.

5 out of 5 stars        An Energetic, Pulse Pounding, and Vibrant Love Story


  1. i don't know if you (legally :-) can get ahold of another franka potente movie in america, called "nach fünf im urwald". that's the movie i first saw her in and she's great.


    beste grüße aus deutschland :-)

  2. Just read up on the film a bit and it sounds great. I'll have to hunt for it, but I doubt I'll be able to find an American release of the flick. Thank god for my trusty all region player. :) Thanks for checking out the review.