With the advent of postmodernism as a new philosophy of art, new opportunities were open for filmmakers to discuss topical societal issues. Furthermore, the postmodern cinema invites the audience to participate in the dialogue. Run Lola Run, a movie produced by Tom Tykwer, is the specimen of the era that characterizes it quite accurately. Being a manifestation of the postmodern movement in cinema, the film incorporates the narrative, formal, and character-building elements that make it the ultimate postmodern art piece, allowing it to shed light on the problems in social interactions, personal dilemmas, and one’s perception of self.
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The first and most obvious, the change in gender roles that can be observed in the movie can be described as a successful attempt at incorporating postmodern ideas into the narration. The 1980s were a difficult time for filmmakers to create strong pieces with well-written and well-rounded characters, especially as far as female leads were concerned (Suchan 61). On the one hand, the traditional portrayal of women as fragile damsels in distress still had a strong impact on the way in which the characters were written; on the other hand, the need to create new and more engaging female leads was growing increasingly more noticeable.
Run Lola Run was, perhaps, the direct manifestation of the specified change in the moviemaking industry and a shift toward the new, postmodern representation of women in cinema. Instead of being passive and having little to no character like previous female characters used to, Lola is passionate and active throughout the entire movie, therefore, making it clear that the time for a postmodern reinvention of gender issues has come. Therefore, instead of placing the emphasis on the male character as the active protagonist, the movie makes Manni take a back seat to Lola’s attempts at rescuing him. In fact, Manni pleads her to help him at the very beginning of the movie: “Help me, Lola!” (Run Lola Run 00:05:37).
The identified phenomenon aligns with the general changes of portraying women in the German cinema: “By the early eighties West Germany boasted a highly acclaimed women’s cinema and a vibrant feminist film culture as part of its new cinema” (Knight 13). Therefore, it could be argued that the movie provides a graphic example of the changes in gender perception as they were affected by the development of postmodernism tendencies in the German cinema. In fact, Run Lola Run can be deemed as the manifestation of postmodern feminism, with the “hermetically sealed apartment” (Evans 82) in which women had been imprisoned, finally releasing its victims.
For instance, Knight specifies that a lot of German movies at the time were trying to advance the concept of fluidity in gender roles as they were perceived by the society: “Although their work contributed to a new German cinema, it also gave rise to a whole feminist film culture and produced a critically acclaimed women’s cinema” (Knight 2). Therefore, Run Lola Run can be deemed as a prime example of the movie that subverts the traditional perception of a woman as a passive character and allows her to gain the qualities that are typically viewed as male, therefore, introducing the elements of masculinity into her character.
However, apart from gender issues, the movie also displays a plethora of traits that can nowadays be considered a staple of a postmodern movie. For instance, the fact that the film was shot on a budget of $1,750,000 shows that less emphasis was on the commerce and effects, whereas more effort was put into art and acting. As a result, the audiences were introduced to a new concept of cinema. Yet, when it comes to discussion the signs of postmodern cinema that leap off the screen as the movie is played, one must address the continuity issue. Run Lola Run is famous for its plot structure, which, refusing to follow the traditional principles of linear narration and incorporating the necessary parts of a three-act structure, still, introduces a relatively new idea of portraying the possible plot developments and the subsequent outcomes.
In fact, the postmodernist angle, from which the movie is viewed, makes it possible for the viewer to realize that the final alternative, which seems to provide Lola and Manni with a satisfactory resolution, does not invite as many joyful outcomes for others. In fact, even for Lola, the third and, presumably, not the last, outcome suggests losing her father to a death stroke. Consequently, the movie allows interpreting the available scenarios from several angles based on the needs of different people, thus, showing that what might seem like a happy ending for the lead characters may also imply extremely hurtful consequences for other people.
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The introduction of the harsh reality into the movie, as opposed to the clichéd ending that the general audience would find emotionally satisfactory, can be viewed as the endeavor at introducing the viewers to the concept of postmodernism.
Which is even more impressive, the movie introduces the audience to the concept of a time lag, which was only starting to gain popularity as a plot device and had not worn out its welcome by the time that Tykwer started working on Lola. Moreover, instead of using the concept of the jetlag in the manner that became traditional at the time, Tykwer creates alternative timelines and, which is even more impressive, leaves the ending of the movie open to the audience’s interpretation, implying that Lola’s run might not be over yet: “I’ll just keep on running, okay?” (Run Lola Run 01:03:44).
Even though Lola mentions that her run is not over yet in the middle of the movie, the message behind what she says is clear and suggests that an endless array of possibilities lies ahead. The movie invites the reader into a multiverse where every possible choice can be made, and where none of the outcomes is fully satisfactory. On the one hand, the identified approach sets the film aside from the movies that incorporate the concept of a jetlag as a complete experience of lingering between the present day and a certain point in the history: “And that rule is that cinema’s voltage depends on delay and slippage, what I dub the decalage at the heart of the medium and of each film between ‘here and there’ as well as ‘now and then’” (Dudley 60).
Run Lola Run, instead, creates different time lines, neither of which incorporates the solution to every conflict that the movie mentions. The bittersweet message that the identified moment carries can be described as the quintessence if existentialism that was compressed into a ten-second scene.
However, when it comes to determining the definitive characteristic of Lola, the fact that it does not tend to pander to any of the existing cultures and, instead, strives to appeal to a multicultural audience deserves to be mentioned. Instead of trying to appeal to the representatives of the upper class, the director focused on the people from all walks of life, therefore, creating a highly realistic universe.
For instance, the movie features business people (i.e., the father and his associate) and the lower class, such as the woman with a stroller and a homeless person with plastic bags. Furthermore, the representatives of different subcultures are featured heavily in the film, including the members of the above-mentioned business class, the youth culture, etc. Finally, the viewers are provided with an opportunity to relate to the characters of different ages, e.g., not only the young protagonists, but also the older generation (e.g., Lola’s father).
In other words, nearly all members of the Berlin population are represented in the movie in their variety, and the viewers are offered a chance at looking through the lens of each. As a result, the dilemmas in the development of a bond between people are seen in much better. The identified characteristic of the film makes it a prime example of the postmodern genre, not only in cinema but also in every possible domain of art.
For instance, Lash mentions that the issue of social relationships is often addressed in the postmodern architecture: “This is a matter not only of the pervasion if newer visual cultural models of painting, cinema, architecture, and television, but of the city itself” (Lash 127). Therefore, the movie provides an opportunity to explore the differences between social classes mostly with the help of a visual medium, such as the design of mise-en-scènes, the changes in the setting, the interaction between the characters, etc.
As a result, the audience can gain a deep insight on the issue of diversity. Run Lola Run invites the viewers to become a part of the urban environment as a part of a larger experience, with its abundance of opportunities, including the chances of communicating with people from all social strata. Furthermore, with the cinematography and the structure of mise-en-scènes, the film allows embracing and appreciating the grandeur of the urban landscape, thus, creating the postmodern interpretation of the contemporary interactions between the city dwellers.
Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that the attempt at portraying every single representative of the Berlin population in the movie could be deemed as a clearly postmodernism-related feature of the movie. In fact, it could be argued that the incorporation of viewpoints from different members of the Berlin society could be interpreted as the endeavor at embracing the unique versatility of urban life, the growing tendency toward multiculturalism, and the increasing need to embrace the social change.
In other words, the identified characteristic of Run Lola Run shows that Tykwer was stepping outside of the boundaries of the world cinema and, instead, was trying to embrace the concept of the global cinema (Dudley 78). One might argue that, being set in a typically German environment and describing the people that belonged to the German society, the movie was not attempting at making a statement at the global level. However, the elements of multiculturalism, which would, later on, work their way into the phenomenon of globalism, are clearly present in the movie.
Finally, the formal elements of the movie, particularly, the arrangement of its mise-en-scènes, deserves to be discussed. Because of the nature of the film and its scenario, Run Lola Run features a heavy use of jump cuts. Although the specified strategy could not be considered as fresh and new even at the time when the movie was made, it clearly served its purpose by making the time sequences distanced from each other and, therefore, contributing to the impression of dimension jumping. Therefore, the impression of a surreal atmosphere, with which the entire movie was filled, became even more obvious.
The introduction of jump cuts in the middle of scenes was used to imply the feeling of uncertainty and, therefore, create the air of anxiety that helped get the movie’s message across to the audience. With a total of twelve jump cuts, the movie creates a unique environment and allows the viewer to immerse into the surreal universe in which the characters live: “This sort of reworking can’t be done so freely when narratives are more linear and the visuals and sounds are more tightly tied to the action” (“The Grandmaster: Moving Forward, Turning back” 4).
Therefore, the clever use of jump cuts as one of the key features of postmodern movies allows introducing the audience to a specific atmosphere and, therefore, building an entirely new universe through creative surrealism. It is also remarkable that, in the entirety of the movie, there are only so many scenes of Lola actually running. The identified detail can also be viewed as the manifestation of postmodern elements in the movie. Given the change in pace and moods throughout the movie, it could be argued that the idea of running can be interpreted as a metaphor for the willingness to break free from the clutches of harsh reality (Balio 233).
Finally, the randomness of the movie, its plot, scenes, and character development deserves to be mentioned among the characteristics that make it a truly postmodern piece of art. Even though there is a plot line in Run Lola Run, the movie does not make a specific statement about any of the topics that it covers. Instead, it raises even more questions about the consequences of people’s actions, the way in which they affect the lives of one another, etc.
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Thus, different perspectives are provided without giving any exact statement about the situation. Instead of providing answer to specific questions, the movie encourages the audience to think critically and discover more about themselves and the world in the process, which is a sign of a postmodern artwork. Run Lola Run suggests that its audience is smart enough to engage in constructive analysis of their own selves and the sporadic nature of building relationships between the members of the contemporary society.
Run Lola Run introduces the audience to the key concepts of postmodernism as an artistic movement and an art form, therefore, making a strong statement as both an art piece and an interpretation of some of the social issues that were persistent at the time in the world, in general, and Germany, in particular. A careful examination of gender roles coupled with a brief social commentary on the class structure and a careful use of time splits, the movie engulfs the audience immediately.
Run Lola Run is a thrilling combination of an emotional rollercoaster and food for thoughts about the structure of the German post-WWII society, with its new dilemmas, concerns, and aspirations. The movie offers the audience an opportunity to view the world and their place in it, as well as a range of social issues, including interpersonal relationships, family ties, etc., through a postmodern lens. The results are more than impressive; Run Lola Run remains among the list of household classic cinematic pieces due to its innovative approach to plot and character development, and cinematography, as well as its unique philosophy.
Balio, Tino. The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946–1973. University of Wisconsin Press, 2010.
Dudley, Andrew. “Time Zones and Jetlag.” World Cinemas, Transnational Perspectives, edited by Natasa Durovicova and Kathleen Newman, Routledge, 2009, pp. 58-89.
Evans, Peter Williams. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. British Film Institute, 1996.
“The Grandmaster: Moving Forward, Turning back.” DavidBordwell.net, n.d. Web.
Knight, Julia. Women and the New German Cinema. Verso, 1992.
Lash, Scott. Sociology of postmodernism. Routledge, 2014.
Run Lola Run. Directed by Tom Tykwer, performance by Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, and Herbert Knaup, X-Filme Creative Pool, 1998.
Suchan, Patricia. “Originality Died and Made Profit King.” Innovation: Journal of Creative and Scholarly Works, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013, pp. 60-65.