Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, is the kind of film
for which critics must have invented the word
It is so stylish in fact that it thinks it has nothing to do but to be
stylish. And indeed many critics seem to have forgiven it all its many little
incoherences for the sake of its stylishness. I am not against such an act of
indulgence in principle, but in
practice — which is to say while
actually watching the thing — I found my
admiration for the picture’s
stylishness an insufficient insulation against the irritation caused me by its
loose ends.

Lola’s very high concept is
fairly easy to grasp. Like Groundhog Day or Sliding Doors or last
month’s Twice Upon a Yesterday,
it is an exploration of alternative realities, though unlike those films it has
almost no philosophical interest in the questions raised by such an exploration.
Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz
Bleibtreu), who has just managed to lose a bag containing 100,000 DM on the
Berlin metro — money belonging to some
gangsters for whom he was acting as a courier. If he does not appear with that
amount in cash at the assigned meeting place in 20 minutes, he tells her, he
will certainly be killed.

Beyond her love for Manni, Lola has two powerful motivations for undertaking
the almost impossible task of raising 100,000 marks (about $60,000) in 20
minutes. For one thing, she feels partly responsible for
Manni’s predicament. She was to have
met him on her moped to convey him and the money to the appointed place, but her
moped was stolen. That’s why he took
the subway. More importantly, it is clear that
Lola’s and
Manni’s relationship is built around
the expectations created by her competence and his rather sweet fecklessness. He
has screwed up again; he needs her again.
It’s her job to come through for

From this point on, however, the narrative takes three different courses,
presented to us sequentially. In the first, Lola is delayed for a moment on the
stairs of her apartment by a man and a dog (shown in an animated sequence). In
the second, the man trips her; she falls down the stairs and is delayed for a
moment or two longer. In the third, she leaps over the dog and gains several
seconds. On these varying start times depend the three different outcomes of her
mission, two of them unsuccessful and the third, which ends the film,
successful. The impression thus conveyed is of someone who, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, has been permitted
to rewind the tape of her life and replay it until she gets things right.

This is the playful, postmodern spirit at work again. But here there is not,
as there is in the earlier film, any sense of moral development from one
life-outcome to the next. It is not even clear whether or not Lola knows on her
second and third runs through the city that she has done this before. In fact,
neither Lola nor Manni has any internal life to speak
of — which, to my way of thinking,
rather wastes the opportunity afforded by
Tykwer’s fantastical grant to this
sexy but otherwise unprepossessing couple of the one gift we know has never been
vouchsafed to any mortal being.

Moreover, our consciousness of that impossibility makes the whimsy by which
it is so casually abolished here take over the movie. Along
Lola’s route as she runs with
piston-like strides through the city towards the bank where her father (Herbert
Knaup) works, she encounters a woman with a baby in a stroller, a boy who offers
to sell her his bicycle and a man pulling his car out of a garage. Her
interaction with each is altered by the altered time of their meeting. This is
natural enough, but we are then treated to a brief photomontage headed und so
dann. . .
in which each of the
strangers’ lives is presented to us as
radically altered by the encounter. Why? The logic by which every one of these
seemingly inconsequential meetings is said to produce momentous results is
simply assumed, not demonstrated, except in two cases where they lead directly
to accidents.

When Lola arrives at the bank, her father is having an argument with his
mistress. In the first two stories, the point at which she interrupts them is
crucial to what follows; in the third, by another quirky coincidence (being
earlier, she does not delay the man pulling his car out of the garage, who turns
out to be driving to an appointment with her father), she misses her father
altogether. As a result she is forced to barge into a casino and win the money
by five minutes’ worth of what appears
to be psychokinesis at the roulette wheel. It was at this point that po-mo
whimsy became altogether too much for me and Lola came to seem not of this earth
in one too many ways. It’s a pity,
because one would have liked to think that her stylishness deserved better.

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