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Run Lola Run Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 July 2008
Image“Run Lola Run” is a low-budget German film that’s cinematically so inventive it did good business around the world.  The story is very simple, even slight; it’s what’s done within the framework that’s so creative, not the framework itself.  The movie begins with a bravura shot, from a satellite view of Europe zooming down to a guy in a phone booth.

Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her lover Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), in the booth.  He’s had a little mishap.  He picked up 100,000 Deutschmarks for Ronny, a big-time drug dealer, who’s expecting the money by a specific hour.  But Manni foolishly forgot the knapsack containing the money on a subway.  Now he has twenty minutes to deliver 100,000 DM, or Ronny will kill him.   He tells Lola he’s considering holding up a supermarket across the street from the booth.

Lola is stunned, but thinks quickly.  Her moped was recently stolen, so she sets out at a dead run across Berlin, heading for the only place she might be able to get that much cash, her somewhat estranged bank president father.  But he’s in something of a pickle himself—his long-time mistress has just demanded he leave his wife for her, and that they immediately have a child.  This puts dear old dad in a touchy mood by the time Lola shows up.

But before that, we see Lola, in her tank top, baggy pants and red-orange dyed hair, sprinting across the city.  She occasionally bumps into or encounters various people—a cranky middle-aged woman on the street, a guy driving out of a parking garage, a clerk in a bank hallway—and the movie takes brief segues into what happens to these people in the future, seen in rapidly-edited stills.

After a contretemps with her father, Lola goes back to her sprint (the German title is simply “Lola rennt”), passing workmen carrying a large sheet of glass and an ambulance speeding along with its siren blaring.  She meets with Manni and….

Never mind what happens (though it’s interesting); the important thing is that after a scene of Lola and Manni in bed, quietly talking about their relationship (it seems this must be a flashback, but other events suggest it might be a peek into the future), the movie whisks back in time to the moment Lola received the phone call.  And everything starts all over again.  Lola again meets a belligerent dog in her apartment hallway (this segment is always in spiky cartoon animation), again passes the woman in the street, the man backing out, etc., but this time the flash-forward stills show the people heading on to different futures.  One of the points writer-director Tom Tykwer is making is how brief encounters can change the future.

Again Lola meets with her father, again she continues her run, and again the movie flashes back to that phone call.  This time, Lola’s sprint follows a different route, including a visit to a casino.  (This is where her ability to shatter glass by screaming, demonstrated early on, comes in most handy.)

There have been a few movies that included repeated sequences which vary with each playback.  The most famous is Akria Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” (1950),  but “Sliding Doors” (1998) also dealt with the idea.  It’s a great concept for movies, which can easily repeat or vary sequences, can fool around with time, with plots and with characters.  “Run Lola Run” was, claims Tykwer in his entertaining commentary track, “an experimental movie for mass audiences.”  And it works.

The high definition of this Blu-ray DVD is unexpectedly rich and detailed.  The movie appears to have been shot on 16mm (though this is uncertain), but the cinematography is consistently rich and crisp.  There’s a scene involving a huge shattered glass, and every fragment is visible.  The textures of Lola’s skin and gaudy hair are clearly rendered.  The many editing and visual stunts Tykwer employs work even better in high definition, almost as well as they do in theaters.

The movie instantly put Tom Tywker on the list of directors to follow.  His “The Princess and the Warrior” (also with Franka Potente) was releaed in 2000 and also gained good reviews worldwide, but not as much attention as “Run Lola Run” earned.  His “Perfume” (2006) was more troublesome; brilliantly made, but ultimately Tykwer couldn’t find a way to involve audiences in the very strange storyline.  He also contributed a segment to the multi-story “Paris Je T’aime.”  He’s still a talent to watch; he’s fully capable of making a masterpiece.

As demonstrated by her commentary track and appearance in “Still Running,” a well-done documentary on “Run Lola Run,” Franka Potente, a German, speaks English with almost no accent.  She co-starred with Matt Damon in “The Bourne Identity” and briefly returned in the first sequel.  She’s a strong actor, physically attractive to be sure, but her most striking attribute is her intelligence.  I hope she makes more American films.

That documentary is very well done, with lots of behind-the-scenes footage showing that this movie couldn’t have been easy to shoot.  It’s not likely that Tykwer was able to get the full cooperation of Berlin city authorities, and probably had to grab much of this footage on the fly.  But he’s very sharp and clearly very creative.  Consider his frequent use of black and white and animation.

“Run Lola Run” is great fun, the kind of movie that grabs your attention at the very beginning and doesn’t let you loose until after the last shot.  This Blu-ray disc is an ideal way to own this unusual, and unusually entertaining, movie.

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