Lola rennt (Run Lola Run)

Directed by Tom Tykwer
Starring: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup, Nina Petri, Joachim Król.
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
July 15, 1999

The only reason I am reviewing this film is that, in my infinite stupidity, I thought I could get to see The Blair Witch Project on its opening night in New York. It's only playing at the Angelika Film Center, in Greenwich Village. That's it -- no where else in the world. Of course, it was sold out for the entire day. So as to not waste a good parking spot, I had the happy accident of seeing Run Lola Run instead.

Franka Potente stars as the title character: a punk-ish girl with bright red hair who lives in Berlin with her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). Manni is a small-time drug courier who depends on Lola to pick him up with her moped after he makes his deliveries. When Lola's moped gets stolen one fateful day, Manni is forced to make his way back to his boss by subway. When police arrive on the train, Manni hurries off, leaving a bag with 100,000 marks in it on his seat. As the train pulls away, he realizes that the money is now in the hands of a homeless guy (Joachim Król) that shared the car with him.

Now in need of 100,000 marks in twenty minutes, he calls Lola to get it any way she can, and bring it to the street corner where he is to meet his boss. If she doesn't get there on time, he warns, he will rob the Bolle supermarket to get the money. Lola quickly realizes that the only place she can get that much money is from her father, the banker (Herbert Knaup). So Lola runs... and runs.

As you might expect, Lola runs a lot in this film. As she runs to her father's bank and to Manni, her path intersects with several other people whose destiny is affected by the encounter. Each little decision or chance causes a certain future to play out, in rapid-motion montage on screen. After one run of these twenty minute periods ends tragically, it repeats again, except this time the encounters are slightly different, with different futures played out in the subsequent montages. And then it repeats once more.

The concept of small occurences changing the future has been explored many times. Most recently, Sliding Doors examined how Gwyneth Paltrow's life changes depending on whether or not she catches a train. That film showed the outcomes in parallel, cutting between the different tangents. This film shows three tangents serially, but the stimuli of change are much more subtle: basically, how Lola gets down the stairs of her apartment building decides the fates of all the characters in the film.

The twenty minute concept is used to keep the action going at a break-neck speed. There is no time to dawdle on how people react or feel; the clock stops for no one. Combining this with the dynamic fate concept makes for a surprisingly fresh idea.

Like other recent films, this one uses different photography methods for contrasting different scenes. Whenever the point of view is neither Lola's nor Manni's, digital video is used. The little montages are in the point of view of walk-on characters, and are mostly comprised of stills that are shown in rapid succession. Even animation is used in some parts for effect. Constantly changing the nature of what the audience sees further increases the pace of the film, making it one big, wild ride.

Unlike other German films, this might appeal to Americans more. The soundtrack is almost exclusively American, even throwing in "What a Difference a Day Made" with techno dance music. The style is also congruent with MTV and other youth-oriented fare. They certainly liked it in Park City, where it won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. But, my review for the other big hit of Sundance will have to wait at least until next week.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Lola rennt (1998)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
Run Lola Run (1999) -- VHS (Subtitled in English)
Run Lola Run (1999) -- VHS (Dubbed in English)
Run Lola Run (1999) -- DVD
Run Lola Run: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan