Film: Lola Rennt (Run, Lola, Run)
Format: DVD from Rasmussen College Library projected on screen.
Lola Rennt (Run, Lola, Run) is a film with which I have a strange history. Several years ago, I was called in to substitute for a film study class. The movie that had been selected for that night was Lola Rennt. Tonight, essentially the same thing happened. I needed to find a film that would create a good discussion, that wasn’t too long, and that was immediately available in my school library. Naturally enough, I selected the same film. So I’ve seen this film twice, both times in a classroom that I wouldn’t normally have been in charge of.
Tom Tykwer’s film is an interesting one, and as I predicted, it made for a good discussion after we had watched it. There were, in fact, some excellent observations from the students, some of which I will almost certainly mention in the next several hundred words.
Anyway, we start with Lola (Franka Potente), who receives a phone call from her boyfriend, Manni (Mortiz Bleibtrau). Manni has been entrusted with a vast sum of money—100,000DM—but due to circumstances, left it behind on a commuter train where the sack of cash was picked up by a hobo. Now, he needs to replace that money in 20 minutes or his criminal boss will kill him, no questions asked. And so, Lola, who has her own problems, must run to help him.
From this point on, Lola Rennt becomes a sort of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story, with the next 20 minutes played out three times, each one with minor changes at the start that create major changes in the ending. In each case, the changes that occur cause the timing of events to be slightly off, causing massive changes. A car accident is avoided by a sudden tap on the brakes, caused by Lola’s appearance a second sooner or later. Lives change and are changed, and in some cases lost, because of Lola’s position on the street at a given moment.
Really, this is the entire point of the film. Tykwer seems to be arguing that we are all merely puppets in the vast scheme of things, that our lives are entirely at the whim of forces that appear to be beyond our control. We see this not only in the cases of Lola and Manni, but also Lola’s father (Herbert Knaup), the woman he is having an affair with (Nina Petri), and even a few people who bump into Lola on her run through the city. We’re told these stories in a quick series of still photographs. In one case, for instance, a woman pushing a baby carriage experiences a series of events that cause her to lose her child and steal another. Another time through, her encounter with Lola is different, and she wins a lottery.
The visual style is fascinating. Lola’s run through her apartment is told with animation each time, while her run through the streets of her unnamed German city are exercises in editing, pacing, and rhythm. Often, our view of Lola changes in time with the music, happening rhythmically as she progresses. We get flash cuts of her from different angles, see her from far above running through an open plaza, always moving toward someone or something that can help her save Manni. Visually, Lola is always the center of attention because of the severe color of her hair, a shocking red. Her clothing is relatively neutral in color, making her face the constant draw, and since she is almost always on screen, she is always where we look.
The runs are, as mentioned, heavily edited. Between, we are treated to slow, almost dreamy passages of Lola and Manni lying in bed talking. These moments slow the film down, but are necessary breaks from the overwhelming pace of the 20-minute segments. These segments are red, reminiscent of Lola’s hair color despite the fact that at these times, she is evidently a bleach blonde (or at least has a much lighter hair color).
I like this film. I think it’s entirely possible for people to dislike this film, mostly from being overwhelmed by it, but I think it’s frenetic pace works really well. More importantly for me tonight, the class seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, which made discussing it much more fun. One of the better observations in the class was that much like a video game with save positions, Lola appears to learn from her past experiences. She’s given a gun in the first run but isn’t sure how to use it and must be instructed. On the second run, she takes a gun from someone and is familiar with it immediately. It’s possible that the other characters learn as well; the guard at her father’s bank seems to understand at some level that Lola is going through the same thing over and over again until she gets it right.
Lola Rennt is an inventive and interesting film as well as an exciting one. Normally, when I watch something this short (it’s about 75 minutes without the end credits), I wish it would go a touch longer. Not in this case. The length is perfect. Any more would be unnecessary and completely overwhelming.
Why to watch Lola Rennt: A nearly unique take on narrative style.
Why not to watch: Lola runs…a lot.