Run Lola Run is the filmic equivalent of techno dance music. There is never a gap between tracks and never a slow moment for rest. It’s all rhythm, style, and energy. There’s not much you’d call a melody, but then that’s not what this style calls for.
Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). The crime they were supposed to be in on together went down as planned, but Lola wasn’t there to give him a getaway ride. Manni had to take the train into town with the bag of loot. When the cops boarded the train, he got off out of habit, only he forgot the bag. Now some bum has the money and Manni has to tell the boss that he lost the money. He knows for sure he’s going to die.
Sliding Doors, 1998, a comedy that shows two hypothetical lives of the same woman, one where Gwynneth Paltrow makes her train, one where she does not.
Lola tells Manni to hold on. She’ll be there ASAP to set things right. She spends the next 20 minutes of film time running through the streets, stopping only at her father’s bank to ask for money. She arrives at Manni’s location just one second too late.
Manni walks into a grocery store to rob it so he can pay the big boss. The robbery goes bad and the two end up dead. Lola screams “STOP!” and the movie starts over again.
Lola runs through two more iterations of the same scenario with varying results. The differences are both subtle and grand. Are the scenarios alternate universes? Are they imagined? Are they three separate films? That question is never answered, nor is it important to the enjoyment of the movie, because it’s all about form and style.
It’s all form because the film’s shape is a carefully structured trident. It can come across as Tykwer’s cheap way to avoid having to write a real plot. But that’s like saying there’s no melody in techno dance music. It’s not that the plot is missing, it’s that it was deliberately de-emphasized.
It’s all style because specific shots use stylistic techniques like video footage, split-screen POVs, and even animation. Even within the frame the importance of style is evident in the gothic clocks ticking off the seconds, and in Lola’s flowing, magenta hair and offsetting green pants. It can come across as haphazard and gratuitous, except that it permeates every corner of the screen, every second of the film. I’m confident repeat viewings would reveal a method to Tykwer’s stylistic madness.
Does it sound frustrating? Do you get annoyed at movies that are all style and no plot? Then don’t see it.
Does it sound intriguing? Do you get sucked in by movies that ignore the rules and make new ones? Then don’t miss it.