Run Lola Run (R)
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This is a German film, originally released in 1998. (Original title: "Lola rennt," or "Lola Runs.") It came to the U.S. in 1999, and I'm fairly sure I must have seen it in a theater at that time. I'm also fairly sure that at some point after that, I must have had it on VHS, but I have no idea what might have happened to that tape. In any event, the last time I watched it was probably before I ever started writing reviews on my website. So, I finally got it on DVD in 2017, and now I'm watching it again and writing a review. Oh... and I just remembered that I have the soundtrack on CD. I should give that a listen sometime, it's been quite awhile. (The movie has a lot of techno music, including a couple of songs by the film's star, Franka Potente. "Believe" and "Wish"; they sound pretty much exactly the same to me, just with different lyrics. I've always preferred "Wish," though.) I should say, the movie is kind of hard to classify. It's sort of an action thriller crime drama film, which also features a fairly good, albeit unconventional, romance story (despite the fact that the two main characters spend most of the film apart). Also the film has a pseudo-philosophical bent, complete with opening narration in which the narrator sort of... you know, says pseudo-philosophical things. Or whatever. Plus there's a bit of crude animation, in a few spots. And I guess you could even call it sci-fi, of a sort, because... well, I'll get to that in a bit. But ultimately I consider it an art film. Some might say I'm only saying that because it's foreign (i.e., not American), but that's bullshit. (I mean sure, if I did see it in a theater, it must have been an arthouse, because where else do foreign films with subtitles play?) I think there are those who believe the movie has fairly little substance, but I disagree. Or maybe they think the techno soundtrack somehow makes it impossible to be artistic. Or maybe they just think the philosophical nature of the movie's gimmick is too... well, gimmicky. (And not nearly genuine enough in its philosophy, which I do kind of have to agree with.) But the truth is I think of it as an art film because it's so unconventional and sort of experimental. Of course, experiments don't always work, but I really think this one does. Not in terms of anything philosophical, per se... but just... I dunno, I just find it interesting and compelling and exciting, sometimes tragic and sometimes funny and sometimes sort of blissful. So what the hell else do you want?
Anyway, after the opening narration, we meet the main characters, Lola (Potente) and her boyfriend, Manni. Lola receives a frantic phone call from Manni, who believes a gangster named Ronnie is going to kill him. Manni had just been doing a job for Ronnie, which involved him collecting a payment of 100,000 Deutsche marks, which he was supposed to deliver to Ronnie. However, Lola had been supposed to pick Manni up after the job, but her moped had been stolen, so she was late. This led to a chain of events in which Manni lost the bag containing the money before he could deliver it to Ronnie. And he was sure there was no chance Ronnie would believe what happened, much less forgive him. So now, Manni is standing in a phone booth across the street from a supermarket, which he decides to rob if Lola doesn't somehow acquire 100,000 marks and bring it to him in just 20 minutes. At this point, Lola runs out of her apartment, and keeps on running until she reaches the bank where her father works, hoping to get the money from him. Along the way, she encounters various random people, and we see quick flashes of what those people's futures will be like.
Beyond that, I really don't want to reveal any specifics of the plot, except to say that the movie's gimmick is that once we reach the outcome of Lola's effort to save Manni's life, the movie starts over from the point at which she ran out of her apartment. Things go slightly differently this time, and the end result is very different. Then it starts over again. And again, things go slightly differently, until reaching an end that is, again, very different. (Well, also, between each of the versions, we see flashbacks to some point in the past, when Lola and Manni were just lying in bed having conversations. Which was kind of nice, in that it helps ground the fact that they've been together for some time before this fateful day, and were in love. Although I really didn't need those scenes to get that, because it's abundantly clear from Lola's absolute desperation to save Manni's life, no matter what risks she has to take. Nevertheless, I did appreciate those interludes.) Also, in each of the three versions of events, we see very different flashes of the random characters' futures, and for the most part, it made absolutely no sense to me how their futures changed. I mean, in none of the versions did I see any indication of how the exact nature of their encounters with Lola had any effect on their own futures, so it's impossible to say how the slight differences changed their futures. Honestly, that's the one part of the movie that didn't really work for me, and I think it's a shame, because with a little effort I think some clear explanations could have been made, which maybe could have made it all make sense. But whatever, I really don't care about any of them, anyway. I care about Lola and Manni. It's their outcomes that matter. And it's their stories that make the movie's gimmick feel like, you know, more than just a gimmick, to me. (I still have no idea how to account for it, though. That's what I meant when I said it was kind of like sci-fi; that is, the movie's kind of like an alternative history story. Or something.) Of course, the philosophical idea is that... well, basically, small changes can make big differences, like a Butterfly effect. Or whatever. Beyond that it all seems rather muddled to me, like I have no idea what it's saying about fate versus the choices we make, or anything. And honestly, I don't really care what any of it means. That's not the part of the movie that works, for me. Like most of the movies that I love, what works for me is that I care about the characters. So... each of the three different endings give me plenty of feels, whether good or bad. And isn't that the point of stories? It's all about the feels.
You know, except when it's about something else. But whatever.