I'd Throw You Into The Ocean...Shock Therapy: Run Lola Run (1998)

Fueled almost entirely by the MTV generation of a deluge of imagery and noise, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly everything that occurs within the vast narrative framework of the taut and intense Run Lola Run, a German film by the stellar director Tom Tykwer, whose recent involvement in Cloud Atlas has made me come to appreciate his presence in cinema.  In its seemingly ecstasy filled narrative, Run Lola Run manages to expertly consider gender expectations within Germany as it moved into the twentieth century, providing both positive and negative images of such, while, simultaneously, completely disregarding any sort of semblance of cinematic linearity or formality.  To call Run Lola Run a structuralists nightmare is an apt description, yet in its decidedly deconstructionist nature, it, nonetheless, speaks volumes to the manner with which a generation of technologically enhanced youth engage with the world, both virally and virulently.  It is always a surprise to me to consider that this film was made in 1998, because, aside from its clearly dated fashion choices, the considerations of youth, money and the ability to navigate at capitalist oriented social landscape blow the lid off any of its contemporaries.  In fact, I would even say that this film stands miles above Fight Club in its satirical consideration of a thrill seeking, adrenaline fueled culture, and, as seems to be the case with many films of similar themes to David Fincher's now well-established classic, predates it.  I am also aware that the film exists within the constraints of the era, with its techno/house music inspired soundtrack and mixing of filmic forms, but damn if it does not do so with such a seamless fusion and direction that it is essentially visual LSD.  As noted earlier Run Lola Run clearly finds its influence in a Y2K fearing group of youth that sought out visual overload as a distraction from the real woes of growing up, in the matter of a succinct eighty minutes, Tykwer's film focuses on all the social issues present in such a state of fear, both with a detached sense of satire and a noticeable degree of earnest concern.

Run Lola Run, is a non-linear film, but not in the manner one might initially assume.  In fact, the plot is somewhat straightforward.  First, there is Lola (Franka Potente) a young, red haired woman who begins her day by answering a phone call from her distraught boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) whose ties to criminal activity has led to his losing a large sum of money, which he was to deliver to his boss, known for his hot temper and willingness to snap over the most minor problems.  Manni had the money prepared to deliver, but in a panic left it on a subway train to avoid suspicious police officers, leading to its being grabbed by a homeless man with an affinity for bags.  Frantic to correct this wrong, Manni begins to consider robbing a nearby grocery store, news that leads to Lola running, as fast as she can, in order, to both obtain the money and, hopefully, stop Manni from making a huge mistake.  This is where the films linearity breaks down, into various versions of the events, each separated by a discussion between Manni and Lola in bed, the topic concerning love and death.  The first scenario finds Lola running to meet with her father Vater (Herbert Knaup) only to be told that she was adopted and not deserved of his money, which leads to her failing to meet Manni prior to the robbery and she in turn becomes an accomplice and is shot during the police suppression.  The second scenario finds Lola choosing to rob her fathers bank, as opposed to asking for the money, which, in turn, leads to Manni being hit by a work van, when the two are having a conversation.  Finally, it is during the third scenario that things finally begin to work in the favor of Lola, and she, instead; chooses to gamble a small bit of money with the hopes of winning enough to save Manni.  However, in this scenario, Manni finds the homeless man and gets his money back and the two reunite without the woes of a financial fear, or Manni's death for that matter.  While this scenario is certainly idyllic, it is not void of death, which is made only minor note of, since viewers are assumed to be siding with the success of Lola and Manni anyways.

I was a little hesitant to embrace this as a film worth including in the month of women in film, which is winding down nicely, with a flow of solid film, particularly since it does have a focus on a couples issues.  However, the title does not deceive, for it is truly about Lola's relation to the events.  Even when we are shown Manni dying, it is within a framework of actions undertaken by Lola, whose movement through the world seems to magically and metaphysically affect every person she talks with or touches, sometimes for the better, at other times for the worse.  Perhaps, the most powerful statement in the film comes from the suggestion that Lola's own frustration with how a situation ends can be verifiably changed should she will it to be so, particularly when it relates to the death of herself or her lover.  The physicality, athleticism and brains Lola possesses within the film also suggest a rejection of gender norms that reject women in any sort of authoritative role, in fact, it is in the first scenario where Lola dies that she is the least authoritative, and, as a result, is killed for not possessing a grounded voice and identity.  In a bit of genius, however, the second scenario rejects her use of violence as a challenge to her oppressor, particularly since it leads to the deaths of people she cares for, and for whom she was protecting.  The third scenario, ironically, is the one in which she embraces capitalism, while simultaneously exploiting it, and it is this scenario that she is able to assure her desired outcome, doubly so, one could argue, and if there were any question as to whether or not Lola's father was a problematic figure, with his philandering and desire to create more offsprings was problematic, his demise in the final scenario certainly provides a clear and deliberate answer.   Run Lola Run depicts the possibilities of a woman with a purpose and demands that viewers accept this emerging reality, something that would drastically change in cinema as it moved into a new millennia, wherein many women possessed similar roles and the assured place of patriarchy and traditionalism in cinema disintegrated.

Key Scene:  For a film whose shots last an average of 2.7 seconds it is hard to pick a scene, but I am partial to the casino section, because it exist both within and outside of the narrative framework created up until that point in the film.

I rented this initially, but ordered a copy of the bluray immediately after the credits moved up the screen.  I strongly suggest you do the same.

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