BY AMBER KELLY-ANDERSON
For those reveling in Franka Potente’s enigmatic and vengeful guest turn as Anne Frank on American Horror Story: Asylum, now is the time to bask in the metaphysical German techno thriller, Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt). On paper, the set up for Tom Tykwer’s 1998 film is simple. Small-time Berlin street thug Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) loses 100,000 marks of mobster money through a string of unfortunate coincidences. Frantic, he telephones girlfriend Lola (Franka Potente) and lays down her gauntlet: 20 minutes to find the money or Manni is dead. Go!
From that moment, Lola and the film flip the adrenaline switch, sending her pounding through the streets to a thumping dance beat that serves as the soundtrack and the pulse of the film’s kinetic energy. What future lies at the end of her race against the ticking seconds? It might be a deadly shoot out, a fatal car accident, or a lucky spin of the roulette wheel. Or, in the postmodern world where videogame, music video, and traditional film barriers crash, it might be all three. Lola reaches the end of her run only to have Tykwer hit the reset button, giving her two more chances to get it right.
Multi-scenario narratives are hardly new fare—Rashomon (1950) and Blind Chance (1981) take the viewer on similar journeys, as does Sliding Doors made the same year as Lola. American audiences might even recall the “But What About This?” swinging door ending of Clue (1985). What is uniquely compelling about Run Lola Run is the combination of aesthetic and philosophy within the structural replication. Bleached out Berlin, looking like an Instagram filter, provides background for Lola, her electric red hair (which Jennifer Garner copied in the Alias pilot) and vivid blue tank top popping against the muted tones. Potente, who is familiar to American audiences as Jason Borne’s doomed love, transcends video gamer action chick by sculpting Lola as a vivacious punk warrior-goddess, sexy and tough. Yet her relationship with Manni is sweet, showcased in their existential pillow talk that bridges between runs.
Mixing the mediums of live action and animation, color and black and white, 35 mm and video, Run Lola Run utilizes its visual storytelling (such as the ten second snap shots that foretell the futures of the people Lola encounters) to such success, it makes reading the subtitles almost unnecessary. In that vein, it is an excellent film for people who think they hate foreign films. However, more than just a maxed-out feast of the visual, Lola hypothesizes issues of freewill versus destiny and the interconnectedness of life. The film exists in a multi-dimensional paradox of chaos explored through hyper-stylized splinters of reality. Like Lola’s shattering scream in a key scene, the brilliance of this film cannot be contained: almost fourteen years later Run Lola Run still provides an exhilarating rush of hypnotic filmmaking.
Amber Kelly-Anderson is a Texas-based writer and literature professor harbouring a long-standing infatuation with film. Her lifelong missions are to Save Ferris and voice a Pixar character. Read more of Amber’s posts.