Not one for my esteemed writing partner James, this. It’s OK though, as he has the class and sophistication of one of those dried horse penises fashioned into a makeshift cudgel. From a film-loving writer, all I can manage to extract by way of a critique of this rather super film is “well, it’s a bit rubbish, isn’t it?” World-beating insights abound in our conversations, let me tell you.
I’m here to tell you to send hate mail and anthrax by post to James but more importantly to explain why Run Lola Run is not, in fact, “a bit rubbish”. Fond as he is of long shots, long takes and crawling dolly movements that would make an asthmatic turtle appear speedy, James gets scared by sudden movements and bright lights. God knows how he sits through the horror films he loves so. Run Lola Run is 80 minutes and is chock-full of smash cuts, jagged wipes and near-instant fades, a jarring experience, and one shot in vibrant and vivid primary colours. The editing and the colour scheme all convey the urgency of the plot and drive it forward at a breakneck speed. The only downside of this is that the editing techniques do date the story a fair bit.
OK, dissing James and questionable 90s editing aside, Lola is a fantastic little romp and one that couldn’t be more different from The Princess and the Warrior (Der Krieger und die Kaiserin) that followed in 2000 by the same writer/director Tom Tykwer. Tykwer is a guy who seems to know his way around a film and for my money, could not be faulted for casting the wonderful, sexy, talented and sexy Franke Potente. I know I included ‘sexy’ twice. I thought it bore repetition. I also mention Potente as the film is practically all hers, playing as she does the eponymous Lola. And she runs. A lot.
The plot is simplicity itself – so much so that it bears repeating three times, with subtle and not-so-subtle alterations to the plot line or character interaction, providing lots of ‘what-ifs’, some quite neat little story shifts and the joy of seeing at least one of the not-so-nice characters get a bloody good kicking, courtesy of karma. I am not spoiling anything by telling you this is a feel-good movie and I feel that if approached in the right mood, I defy anyone to simply not like it. Where was I? Ah, yes – the plot. Banker’s daughter Lola (Potente) has made a poor choice of boyfriend in the ne’er-do-well Manny (Moritz Bleibtreu), a small-time crook and very much a small fish in a massive pond. Manni has left DM 100,000 belonging to a crime boss on a train and has precisely 20 minutes to come up with the equivalent cash to avoid being separated from his limbs. Naturally, he doesn’t have that kind of cash, so he asks Lola if she can help. The three twenty-ish minute segments are her alternate attempts to get the cash and to stop Manni from pulling an armed robbery in desperation.
Colour (particularly red), and sound play a major part in the proceedings, as does the aforementioned editing. It’s something of a relentless assault on the senses but keeps it together at all times. There’s nothing to worry about, really. If you’ve seen any early 90s pop videos, you can get past it. It worked really well, in my opinion as it’s always engaging and never tries to be too clever for its own good. The soundtrack is mostly written by Tykwer and a good few songs are performed by Potente, presumably keeping the budget low. All in all, it’s a well made, solid piece of cinematic fun and possibly my favourite take on how things would be if you’d turned left instead of right on the way to work, or if you hadn’t gone to that party.
If I had to pick a fault, it would be the lack of any real character depth – especially in the case of Lola herself, who physically carries the pace of the film with her seemingly boundless energy but I suppose if you have to tell the same story three times to arrive where you want to be something may suffer. Don’t let this put you off – there’s more than enough to enjoy, and I bet you’ll be glad you made time for this little German gem.
81 mins. In German.