Thursday, April 30, 2020

Why Watch Foreign Films? Run Lola Run

I missed out on this film a few times, first in the theater (where it would no doubt have been amazing) and second, when my husband watched it on video. I was cross stitching something on the couch that was positioned to the immediate right of the television so I could hear what was going on as he watched but couldn't really see anything. I knew enough German to make out some of the things being said (was ist den los? was hat passiert? scheiss-Manni, hunderttausend, die Tasche, zwanzig Minuten) but by the time I realized I was interested in the film I had missed too much and I made him start it over from the beginning. It became one of my very favorites and to this day, still is.

It's difficult to put the first time viewing experience into words, but for me it was like taking a hit of a really euphoric kind of stimulant . . . everything looked, sounded, and felt amazing. Lola's Kool-Aid red hair. The energy of all the running. Manni's ink. The cleverness of how the story is told as a narrative and through its editing. And the music. This soundtrack (with Franka Potente herself performing many of the selections) is a techno masterpiece that perfectly embodies the energy and emotion of the film. It's what I listen to when I need to channel serious inspiration or motivate myself to exercise (lately the only place I've been able to find it is YouTube). Give it a listen if you like high energy German techno.

After Lola (Franka Potente) receives an upsetting phone call from her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), she has twenty minutes to pull together one hundred thousand dollars to cover his slip-up with his shady employer. As Manni plans to rob a nearby store, Lola thinks maybe her banker father might be good for the money so she runs. For nearly the entire film. Down stairs, over bridges, across streets, and into traffic. While she's running, she meets people who become . . . influenced by their interactions with her and whose narratives are also affected. Lola reaches her father, who happens to be dealing with his own troubling situation with a mistress, but things don't go well. She runs to Manni, who's gone ahead with his robbery plan, and things don't go well there, either, effectively ending the story. All those people, all those decisions, and yes, all that running affect Lola and the way she experienced the events, but don't assume this means that it's over. It's very much not.

The technical elements that went into making this film a success are interesting and easily noticed. Lola is filmed from many different positions, and these often shift with the beat of the music or repetition of lines of dialog. Images are quickly cut in to show thoughts or ideas; when Lola wonders who she can ask for money, each person's image flashes as she says his or her name just as different international postcards flicker with each suggestion Manni has of where the man from the train might have fled with the hundred thousand dollars. It's busy, but fun, and the style persists throughout.

Lola is also given the honor of having the scenes from her story largely shot on film; the supporting characters' scenes are shot on low-res/video and come off as lighter, grainier, and overall less sharp than anything that concerns Lola, alone. We don't need this difference in style to know Lola is the most important, but it makes for nice variety and keeps things moving along at a quick clip by giving us consistent styles for the changes in setting and characters. The music (composed by director Tom Tykwer), again, is vital to this story's impact. In a race against time, how better to remind us of a ticking clock than a collection of pounding techo beats that carries on throughout the film? Clocks are shown, buttons are pushed, canes are tapped, and all these things combine well with the beat of the music to show us that throughout all the running and all the human interactions, the percussion of the second hand (or its microbeat) tirelessly keeps going. Kinda like Lola. 

Honestly, there's no burning need to discuss deeper meaning in this film (although I'm gonna do it anyway), it's a great experience on its own completely as a take-it-as-it-is movie. However, the persistence of time and feelings of young energy do come up a lot and are worth mentioning. Lola and Manni are shown to be somewhat recklessly in love, living lives that contrast significantly with the troubles we see briefly in the older adult characters. Mama is at home in a bathrobe talking with who, some love interest? Papa spends his time working at the bank and has impregnated Jutta Hanson from the board of directors. Adult problems, yes, but boring ones! Notice the couple's tattoos, the row of Barbie dolls, and the turtle in Lola's room. Lola and Manni are vibrant and rebellious and they make us want to be, too. The music, the running---it's like pure adrenaline!

Is Tykwer suggesting anything to us in regard to love, energy, or the passage of time? I think he is. I left the girl-saves-the-boy theme alone (you're welcome, because I could have written the whole thing about that, entirely), but there's some classic girl power mixed in with all this that shouldn't be ignored. Certainly we can't all solve all of our problems by running, especially not now, today, but in taking action and refusing to yield when things seem hopeless? Lola's deeds still hold up.

Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt) is a German film and was released in 1998, directed by Tom Tykwer. Run Lola Run is rated R for some violence and language and runs 120 minutes.