To be clear, Run, Lola Run (or Lola Rennt) is my favorite film of all time. I saw it for the first time when I was a freshman in high school and it was just after finals in my German class. No idea why my teacher chose the movie, seeing as there are a lot of German movies, but man, I’m so glad she did. The 90s fashion and the amazing hair always get my psyched to watch this awesome movie.
This film is so cool. It mixes all kinds of cheesy film effects without breaking the tension or dulling the action, which is quite a feat.
It’s one of the most effective uses of split-screen as well, with Lola and Manni staring at each other and the clock peaking up from underneath them, which effectively uses the space. The animation for just the dog scene is so random but so effective at creating a quirky solution to the problem of getting the dog to act exactly how they wanted him to.
The smartest part of the movie is its way of changing the story slightly each “run” so that even the same people tell different stories. The most obvious one is Lola’s father’s mistress, who reveals she’s pregnant pretty early on in the movie, but is then interrupted by Lola before saying more. However on the second run, the mistress reveals that the child is not Lola’s father’s, because Lola was delayed due to her brief conversation with Herr Mayer. Plus, the punchline of Herr Mayer hitting the biker gang’s car twice in a row is such a great setup for hitting them head first and having them walk away unscathed while presumably Lola’s father dies.
The writing in this movie really helps the viewer follow along to such a complex series of events, by making each event memorable for whatever reason, and if it doesn’t seem memorable enough, adding “endings” to certain random character’s paths.
The nuns are such a great addition to Lola’s run because they just show more or less how much time she has left while not really performing any task other than sticking out among the German citizens. What’s even better, the movie doesn’t bother explaining the “runs”, which is so refreshing compared to so many scifi-esque movies, where the lore is so over-explained with minutes of boring screen time while the audience only understands half of what’s being said. It’s the plague of the genre. Too many writers get so caught up in their own bullshit universes that they forget to actually tell a visual story.
Magic realism is such a fun genre, and can be really cool when done correctly, like in this movie. There’s no context, no explanation, it just sort of happens.
Both Lola’s multiple runs, her ability to change people’s lives drastically, and her screams are all amazing magical/supernatural abilities. It works so well because it’s so simple. When we get stressed out, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a good scream. What’s interesting is that the screaming is actually helpful somehow, not just an outlet. Lola’s screams change the outcomes of events, seemingly. Even her non-tactile encounters with people seem to completely alter their life experiences. She’s obviously meant as a symbol for chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, if you prefer.
The COOLEST use of the runs is that Lola actually seems to remember the previous ones! I loved when Manni explains to Lola how to take the safety off of a gun in the first run, and she remembers in the second! It really blurs whether or not the first two runs actually happen or whether Lola is imagining things that could go wrong, or the choices not to make. Although it seems like these options are a little too detailed to just be her imagination.
Part of the movie that always really stuck out to me as someone who really didn’t know much about editing yet is the cuts between the phone and the two separate bags from the first two runs.
It’s such an in-your-face cut that’s about the definition of distractive editing, but because of the garish style of the film, I actually loved this kind of cut. Stylistically, the film is so intensely saturated when it comes to primary colors that the matching of the red bag and the red phone is nifty as heck.
There are films where cuts like that just don’t work at all. When I saw Denial this past year there was a really sentimental cut from people crying to a barbed wire fence with rain dripping off of it. The scene was stark and serious and that kind of cut just shoved the emotion in my face a little too hard. I was thinking, “We’re at Auschwitz, I think I can figure out it’s supposed to be sad without the editor screaming it in my face”. This cut does the same thing as Run, Lola Run by matching up the actions of two objects, the problem is that the tone only really works with somewhat surreal or less serious topics.
What’s always cool, too, is the in-between scenes where Lola and Manni both go over what their greatest fears are basically. Lola is very worried that there is nothing actually special about her, that there could be many girls so similar to her that Manni could love. Whereas, Manni is far more worried about the fact that his life will have little impact, and that if he suddenly died, the world would keep moving without him. These are the two themes of the film: that your decisions might have a lot or little meaning, but that there are also lots of people with such similar features and problems that you’re barely important as an individual. Makes you wonder if there are actually 3 different Lolas in 3 different worlds all doing their best to save 3 different Mannis.
At the same time as all this crazy philosophy is happening, the film is engaging in its own right. The viewer can read as much or as little as they like into the work, which I think satiates the desire for both a thoughtful piece and an entertaining film commercially. It’s a great balance between telling a cool story and talking about weird nihilistic beliefs all in one great movie.