Originally published at PassionforCinema.
Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt) is nothing either more or less than an action movie which is trying to tackle the issue of reality. It is by no means a perfect movie, because I continually felt that there were things that could – rather, should, because I don’t actually know what adds to Tykwer’s vision and what’s there for the fun of it – have been done better, but it is an astoundingly, adrenaline-releasingly well-made one, especially considering the complexity of both the vision as well as the method of execution; most of my problem was that many elements seemed overdone before making their importance clear.
The story is about Lola (played by Franka Potente, whose name fits the role) whose boyfriend (Moritz Bleibtreu) has just lost a hundred thousand marks entrusted to him by a dangerous gangster to a bum. At twenty to twelve, he calls her and tells her the whole problem, that he has to pass on the money (incidentally, the boyfriend’s called Manni) at twelve. So, she starts running.
Ah, but there’s something before that. The movie begins with a shot of a crowd milling about, out of which the camera isolates a few, all the minor characters we are going to meet during the course of this movie. And there’s a narrator, who says:
Man… probably the most mysterious species on our planet. A mystery of unanswered questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? How do we know what we think we know? Why do we believe anything at all? Countless questions in search of an answer… an answer that will give rise to a new question… and the next answer will give rise to the next question and so on. But, in the end, isn’t it always the same question? And always the same answer?
Then there’s a police officer, introduced in that style, who says: “The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes, those are the facts. Everything else is pure theory. Off we go!” Then, he throws the football in his hand up, and we see that the crowd is forming the title. Later, we’ll see the same shot, where something thrown up leads to something implausibly ordered, first right after the phone conversation in which Manni tells Lola the problem when Lola throws the receiver up and it eventually falls in place. Then, multiple times… wait right there, we’ll get there.
So, after Lola finds the problems, she starts running. In a cartoon as well as in feature. She meets people, and there are little montages informing us of their future, in a pace that would be fitting for them to be nothing other than Lola’s imaginings. There’s also inter-cutting to her father agreeing to leave his wife for his girlfriend. She gets to her father, and asks him for the money. He throws her out. And she again starts running, and ends up helping Manni rob a store, learning how to operate a gun in the process. Then, they get surrounded by police, Manni throws the money (please tell me you’ve got the joke by now) high into the air, and she gets shot (not really a spoiler) and then there’s this scene, presumably in Lola’s head, which ends up dissolving into the new reality.
Soon, we see that everything is the same yet subtly different, like it’s a dream version of the events that have just transpired. The “And Later” montages, which seemed to have become gimmicky when the camera panned to a guy just for one of these, start making sense. And then we see what’s really changed. And things happen, and I won’t tell you how many times we dissolve into a new reality.
The point is that there is only one reality, the first one. The later ones happen in heads. The characters seem to have a collective memory of what other people did, exemplified not only in the montages but in that the people dreaming know what other people did in the twenty minutes. Don’t forget, there’s a reason I insist the realities are nested, not laid out for our choice as James Berardinelli suggests in his otherwise insightful article.
However, I’m led to wonder, is the outermost reality any more real than the inner ones? What type of reality is it in which the TV is showing a cartoon version of the woman who just ran out, in which one person knows what the other person did when she was away? In which Lola can run so much?
Answer: the one which adheres to the rule
The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes, those are the facts. Everything else is pure theory. Off we go!