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‘Run Lola Run’ by Tom Tykwer

Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt) is a German thriller movie that was produced in 1998 and directed by Tom Tykwer. It was widely critically acclaimed, bagging 26 of the 41 awards that it was nominated for in Germany and in international film festivals, including Best Film at the Seattle International Film Festival (Lola Rennt Awards). Tykwer, a self-taught filmmaker, was struggling financially, and the release of this movie catapulted him to widespread international recognition by becoming the best German movie of that year and grossing $7 million in the US alone.

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The story revolves around Lola and her boyfriend Manni. Manni works for a local mafia leader and has to deliver the profit money from an illegal business to his boss. The plan goes wrong when he decides to use public transport (carrying the 100,000 Marks with him) after Lola fails to pick him up from the designated point. Seeing policemen in the vicinity, he panics, and makes a run for it, dumping the money at the subway station. Now Lola has to help him get the same amount of money somehow or Manni would be killed. Lola promises to do it on her own in the twenty minutes that Manni has before he has to report to his boss. As time runs out, the smallest decisions that Lola takes make all the difference to what happens next.

The movie uses the ‘time loop’ device to portray how important the (apparently) insignificant events are. There are three runs, in which Lola deals with the people and the accidents she meets during her mission differently. This technique is usually used in science fiction movies, where time runs normally and then flips and starts over from some point as if the lives of all major characters have been ‘reset’. However, for viewers, the three runs would feel like a continuous journey, and they would see Lola’s experience as a series of events in her life. So the ‘time loop’ has been employed effectively to generate sympathy and understanding for Lola who is forced to rob a bank in one take, and also has to go through accidents including her own and her boyfriend’s death in the other takes. This technique and Lola’s character has been described by the film critic Roger Ebert as having video-game-like qualities where multiple lives are needed to win.

The music and soundtrack of the movie, done by Tykwer, Jonny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil is adapted from The Unanswered Question, which is a work of American Composer Charles Ives. Ives’ biographer Swafford calls the original work ‘a kind of collage in three distinct layers, roughly coordinated’ with strings, flutes, and trumpet each lending its tempo and key to the composition. Therefore it relates perfectly to the theme of the movie, which is all about subtly different takes on the same situation. The narration is done by Hans Paetsch, himself a German actor who is better known for giving voice-over for children’s stories. Here, the use of Paetsch serves to give a subconscious German feel to the movie.

The social message in the movie is strong, and apart from the energetic cinematography and good performance by Franka Potente (as Lola), is one of the main reasons why I like this movie. The theme of free will versus fate, and which one has the upper hand runs throughout the movie, and so is the concept of choice. What decisions we take and how situations are dealt with can have big consequences not only for us but also for people we interact with. In reality, we do not always have the option of starting over again when we mess up or predict the future because we don’t know what life has in store for us, but fate is a direct consequence of our actions.

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