Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Run Lola Run (1998)

Director: Tom Tykwer                                     Writer: Tom Tykwer
Music: Tom Tykwer                                       Cinematography: Frank Griebe
Starring: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup and Armin Rohde

Lola rennt is a highly stylized German film from the late nineties. American audiences will best remember the star, Franka Potente, as Matt Damon’s girlfriend from The Borne Identity a few years later, or from falling in love with Hugh Laurie when House was in the mental hospital in the premier of season six. Run Lola Run is the English title and it’s an apt translation. The story is fairly simple. Potente is Lola, at home when she receives a phone call from her boyfriend Moritz Bleibtreu. She was supposed to pick him up on her moped after he fenced some diamonds and collected the money, so they could deliver it to the criminals he is working for, but her moped was stolen and she wasn’t there. While he was on the subway some police came into his car and, spooked, he left without the money and a bum picked it up. But all of that is just the set-up for the real plot to come.

What happens in the rest of the film is essentially three separate renderings of the same events. Bleibtreu has twenty minutes to raise the hundred thousand dollars that he lost and give it to the criminals before they kill him. From the phone booth he can see a grocery story and tells Potente that he’ll have to rob it. She tells him to wait and then begins the first of her journeys to get him the money. This is where Potente starts running. Her first thought is to go and see her father, who is the president of a bank. But each time she sets out different things happen that either speed up her run or slow her down. And within each separate timeline the people she interacts with along the way make different choices in their lives, not only that day but in a series of rapid still shots the audience learns how their entire lives are different as a result, something similar to The Butterfly Effect.

Franka Potente is simply a tremendous actress. She has a powerful screen presence and is incredibly convincing in everything she has been in. Moritz Bleibtreu has also done some nice work in films like Munich and most recently in World War Z. The rest of the cast is fairly anonymous, but that’s not really a negative. The main focus of the film is on the leads. There are a number of interpretations of the film, the most interesting one to me being the film as video game. This is reinforced by the animated opening credits, and another animated sequence at the beginning of each run. In this interpretation each of the timelines represents a new attempt at completing the “level” by using information that has been learned on the previous attempt. In the end, it’s a very specific effect and the difference between the attempts is really the primary emphasis of the film. Run Lola Run is more of an experience film rather than something with plot and character. As such, it manages to be successful and I enjoyed it for what it was. Just don’t look for anything more.

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