Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Run Lola Run

What Happens?

Run Lola Run, opens with quotes, one from T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding," (from Four Quartets) "We shall not cease from exploration. and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time."
and another from S. Herberger, "After the game is before the game."

We hear a ticking clock over the opening credits and a black screen which brings up an old looking gold clock with a monster head, before transition into rapid moving footage of a crowd of people, while a narrator speaks " Man... probably the most mysterious species on our planet. A mystery of unanswered questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? How do we know what we think we know? Why do we believe anything at all? Countless questions in search of an answer... an answer that will give rise to a new question... and the next answer will give rise to the next question and so on. But, in the end, isn't it always the same question? And always the same answer?"

The camera stops at a man in the crowd who adds "The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes. That's a fact. Everything else is pure theory. So, it happens." He kicks a ball in the air which the camera seems to stay with while looking at the ground, as the crowd of people form the letters of the title. The ball zooms back down, rather than hitting the ground, it enters a cartoon of a red haired woman running through a tunnel smashing the letters in the credits and avoiding clocks and monsters. The cartoon changes into a mugshot style introduction of all the characters, before the camera zooms out to the sky again, then descends into a city, and enters the window of a building, bringing us to Lola (Franka Potente) who is on the phone with her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) Manni asks Lola where she is, and she explains that she's running late because her moped was stolen, which complicated her whole day.

Manni seems panicked, and mentions that she's always on time. Manni says he's "done for." and tells her "You weren't there and I messed it up." Lola asks him to explain. but Manni says "He's gonna kill me." Manni describes an illegal transaction, first he and associates drove cars to a certain spot where Manni was paid in diamonds, and then driven across a border to meet a man who inspected and paid for the diamonds. Lola was to meet him there, but since she didn't make it he went to the subway station carrying his bag of money. There was a bum on the train, who fell down. Manni left his bag for a second to help the man when cops showed up on the train. Out of habit, Manni took off not realizing he'd left the bag. When he turned back to retrieve it, he was stopped by security. The homeless man, Norbert von Au (Joachim Krol) soon realized what was in the bag and took off. Lola asks about Ronnie (Heino Ferch) and Manni says "He'll kill me, although Lola insists he should tell him what happened. He describes getting beat up by Ronnie for keeping a carton of cigarettes from a job, and says that Ronnie doesn't believe anybody, and figures the job was a test. He tells Lola there were 100,000 marks in the bag. When Lola doesn't have any advice for him, Manni says "See, I knew you wouldn't have any ideas. I told you, someday, something was gonna go down and even you wouldn't know what to do. Not when you die, sooner! You said, 'Love can do everything' but it can't get me 100,000 marks in twenty minutes. Manni explains he needs to meet Ronnie in twenty minutes, and Lola tells him to run away, and she'll go with him. Manni doesn't think anyone can escape Ronnie, and that he'll be killed and tells her "You can't do a damn thing to change it."  Lola screams, breaking glass in her apartment. She tells Manni to stay where he is and she'll think of something and meet him in twenty minutes. Manni talks about robbing a store across the street from the payphone, but Lola tells him not to do anything and she'll get the cash.

Lola looks at the clock, and concentrates a moment. We see people flashing through her head as possibilities, before she settles on Papa (Herbert Knaup) She runs for the door, her Mama (Ute Lubosch) is chatting with a man on the phone considering an affair, and yells after Lola that she needs shampoo if she's going out. We see on Mama's television, a cartoon of Lola running down the stairs. She is momentarily frightened, running past a guy with a snarling dog, but gets down to the street. She bumps a woman, Doris (Julia Lindig) pushing a baby carriage, who yells after her. We see snapshots of the woman getting into trouble and having her baby taken away by the police, being miserable and then stealing a baby from someone else. Lola keeps running. We see Papa in his office at the bank where he works, talking with a woman, Jutta (Nina Petri) explaining that she's not happy with their situation as she doesn't want to wait for a man who doesn't want to be with her. She's tired of secrecy, lying and sneaking around.

Lola is noticed by a bicyclist, Mike (Sebastian Chipper) who offers to sell her his bike for 50 marks. Lola says No and we see snapshots of the bicyclist getting beat up by a gang, but meeting a nurse, due to his injuries who he eventually gets married to. She runs past a businessman's car exiting an alley, distracting the driver, Meyer (Ludger Pistor) who hits another car. Manni is still at the phone booth, calling his grandmother for money, but she can't help him. He leaves the phone booth and notices a blind woman (Monica Bleibtreu) standing outside. He tries to give her back her phone card which he apparently borrowed but she walks off. He notices that there are only ten minutes to go. Lola runs right past Norbert, who has his arms full of bags.

We see Papa and Jutta talking again. Papa explains that he has to leave as Meyer's on his way and wants to meet her later. Jutta asks if he loves her, and when Papa asks why she's asking know, she reveals she's pregnant. Lola reaches her fathers building and has to be let in by the guard Schuster (Armin Rohde.) He obliges entering the pass code and she runs down the hallway bumping into a female employee, Frau Jager (Suzanne von Borsody). We see snapshots of the woman in a terrible car accident, surgery, being stuck in a wheelchair and then cutting her wrists, killing herself.

Jutta asks Papa if he wants to have a baby with her. Papa says "Yes." as Lola enters the room. Papa is surprised to see Lola, as he and Jutta obviously have a secret relationship. Jutta exits awkwardly. Lola explains that she needs help and he's the only one she can turn to. Papa of course wants details. He quizzes her about Manni, who he's never met or heard of. Papa obviously doesn't realize the gravity of the situation. Lola screams again, breaking glass on the wall. Jutta is concerned and enters the room again. Papa tells Lola to come with him. He brings her down the hallway and she asks if he's going to help. He says that he'll help by walking her outside, so she can go to bed. He asks her to tell her mother that he's not coming home ever again, leaving the two of them for another woman. He complains about not being appreciated at home, yet his money is good enough for them. He ejects her, and tells her that he wasn't her real dad anyway. Schuster tells her that everyone has bad days. Lola asks an old woman for the time and seeing she only has a few minutes left, she starts running again.

Manni is making another call. We see a red ambulance pull up driving alongside Lola until the driver notices a group of men carrying a long piece of glass across the street forcing him to stop, although Lola runs past them. Manni is approaching the store with 1 minute left. We hear Lola thinking "Wait." hoping to reach Manni. Lola sees him enter the store and she yells after him as he enters. He fires a shot in the air and tells the cashiers to empty the registers. Lola calls him from outside the store, asking why he didn't wait. He turns and talks to her, explaining that she wasn't in time, and that he can't leave now as he's already robbing the place. A guard comes up behind Manni with a gun while they talk and tells Manni to put his hands up. Manni complies, but  Lola enters the store from behind the guard hitting him from behind to help Manni, and then talking the guard's gun. Lola covers Manni while he grabs the cash. They run down the street together only to be quickly surrounded by the police. Manni throws the bag of cash in the air, distracting one of the cops who accidentally fires and shoots Lola in the chest killing her. Manni drops his gun to check on Lola, now lying on the ground.

We see Manni and Lola in bed. She asks him "Manni, do you love me?" He says "Sure I do" She insists that she could be anyone and that if they hadn't met, he'd be saying the same things to someone else. Manni insists that he does love her and that she's the best, but finally when she won't be satisfied with his answers, he asks if she's "gone nuts." or wants to leave. Lola says. "No." and then "Stop."

We see the movie rewind to Manni and Lola's phone call. She doesn't stop to think this time, already having Papa set in mind. Mama yells after her for shampoo again and we see cartoon Lola running down the stairs, this time the guy with the dog intentionally trips her and she falls down the stairs hurting one of her legs. She bumps into Doris with the baby carriage quite a bit harder, and we see in her snapshots that rather than steal a baby, she'll win the lottery. She runs into Mike, the bicyclist, again turning him down, this time adding "it's stolen" We see that Mike ends up homeless and hooked on drugs. She jumps over Meyer's car this time, but he still crashes into another driver, as she still distracted him. She runs into Norbert, but of course doesn't realize that he has Manni's money. Papa and Jutta are having the same conversation they had before, but Jutta has now told him that she isn't sure it's his baby. Schuster lets Lola in again, and this time Lola doesn't bump into Frau Jager. She enters her father's office a little later than last time and we see that Jutta and Papa are arguing. Papa isn't going to leave his family claiming "I can't leave a sick wife and three kids just to please her Highness." Jutta remarks that his wife is drunk all the time. Jutta tells Lola to go away, alerting Papa to her presence. He's surprised again and doesn't feel like dealing with her, but she's insistent that she needs money. He gets angry when she doesn't leave and asks "Who's that slut?" He tells her it's none of her business. Lola can't stop sobbing and he tells her to go home. She says she can't and explains she needs money. He relents and offers her some cash to go away, not realizing the amount she's talking about. Jutta interrupts and scolds Lola for barging in. Lola calls Jutta a "stupid cow." and Papa slaps her. After throwing things at him, Lola starts throwing things from the office at Papa and then leaves crying.

On the way out, Schuster tells Lola "You can't have everything." She responds by taking Schuster's gun and entering the back offices as someone opens the door while leaving. She returns to her Papa's office, where he and Jutta are still talking. Pointing the gun at him, she tells him to come with her. Schuster has followed her and tries to talk her into giving the gun back. She responds by firing a shot into the wall to convince them she's serious, scaring Jutta. She walks him out of his office with a gun to his head. Frau Jager tries to intevene but Lola tells her to "Fuck off" We see Frau Jager's snapshots show her finding a man in the bank to play S & M games with her, ending up a happy couple. She shoots a lock to open a door, and tells a teller to bag 100,000 marks. Papa nods to do it and the teller starts bagging. Schuster is still following, trying to talk her down, telling her "You don't want to hurt anyone." She stares at him, and asks "And if I did?" which backs him off. We hear Schuster's heart beating loudly. The teller says they only have 88,000 and he has to go downstairs to get more. She tells him to hurry, leaving Lola and Papa alone for a minute staring at each other. The teller returns quickly and gives her the 100,000 in a trash bag. She runs outside and finds the place surrounded by cops, pointing guns at the bank. They don't realize she's the robber,, however and tell her to get away. She starts running for Manni again. We see him leaving the phone booth with three or so minutes to go. The ambulance pulls up next to Lola again, but this time she asks for a ride. The distraction makes him drive into the glass the men are carrying across the road, shattering it. Lola keeps running as Manni considers the store robbery. She thinks "Wait" again, and we see the clock hit the deadline. She yells to Manni before he enters the store, and he hears her and starts crossing the road to meet her. The ambulance catches up however, and speeding, accidentally runs Manni down in the road.

Lola cradles Manni's head and we see the two of them in bed again. This time Manni asks Lola what she would do if he died, insisting that she'd forget him and get on with her life, even describing a possible after death courtship. She tells him, "Manni, you're not about to die." We return to Manni lying in the road. He says "No?" and we see the rewind to the phone call again.

Lola runs immediately this time, not thinking for a moment. Cartoon Lola jumps over the guy and his dog, snarling back at the dog, frightening it. She passes by Doris without even touching her, although Doris gives her a nasty look. The snapshots show Doris becoming very religious and active in her religion. She bumps into Mike on his bicycle and this time say "Sorry." In his surprise he doesn't try to sell it to her and rides off, running into Norbert at a food stand. Norbert tells Mike "Life is really crazy sometimes." and buys Mike a drink. Mike offers to sell Norbert his bike for 70 bucks. Lola encounters Meyer again, this time falling onto his hood, stopping the car. We see that they know each other and he asks if she's alright. She says "No." and keeps running. Norbert is now riding the bike. We find Pappa and Jutta in Papa's office, as she asks Pappa if he wants to have a baby, and he says Yes. This time though, the receptionist buzzes that Meyer is there and waiting for him. Jutta says "There's something else." but he says "This is the nicest gift you could've given me." and rushes off to meet Meyer, telling her they should meet later. This leaves Jutta anxious but Pappa is in a good mood.

Papa leaves the bank and gets into Meyer's car. Meyer tells him that he saw Lola. Lola sees them leaving from a distance and calls after them, although they leave too quickly to hear her. Schuster comes out of the bank and sees Lola in front of the building. He remarks "My angel's here at last." She stares in his eyes and then runs. Manni is in the phone booth again. He gives the blind woman her phone card, which she takes, and she tells him "Wait." He stops for a moment and sees Norbert passing on his bike with the sack of money in the bike basket. He runs after Norbert who starts pedalling faster when he realizes who Manni is. Norbert and Manni run in front of Meyer's moving car almost getting hit, but instead Meyer hits a car head on, the other car is then hit by the guy who stole the moped at the beginning, who is launched from it onto the car. Meyer and Papa are both unconscious, and unmoving, while the guys in the other car start getting out.

Lola runs, asking herself "What can I do?" Praying, "Help me, just this once." She nearly gets hit by a truck in front of a casino and takes it as a sign. She has 99 marks and asks for one chip for 100. She asks the teller, "Please" and she gives it to her. She puts the chip down on Black 20 at the roulette table and wins 3,500 marks.  She puts it all down on 20 again. A bouncer asks her to come with him, but she insists on spinning again. While it spins she screams, breaking glasses everywhere. It lands on 20 again and she wins the money she needs. Everyone in the casino watches her cash out in silence. We see that there are only three minutes left.

Meanwhile, Manni has caught up to Norbert and has a gun on him. He says "That's mine." Nobert says "Fine I know." and gives it to him, but asks "What am I gonna get." and asks Manni for his gun. Manni warily gives it to him and then runs for the meeting place. Lola runs into the ambulance again, showing up just behind it as it barely stops for the men crossing with glass. She lets herself in the back and finds paramedics trying to resuscitate Schuster from the bank. Lola says "I'll stay with him." and takes his hand. We hear his heartbeat come back and stabilize, amazing the paramedics. Lola stands in the middle of the road at the meeting place and calls for Manni and looks around for him. We see Manni get out of a car with Ronnie, shaking hands and walk over to meet Lola. He kisses her and asks "What were you doing? Did you run? Don't worry. Everything's Ok." Walking together, he looks at her bag and asks "Whatcha got there?" Lola smiles.

What About it?

Run Lola Run is an experimental movie which is not very interested in conventional narrative, as much as the many possibilities present in a seemingly impossible situation. Allowing twenty minutes for a poor young woman without transportation to come up with 100,000 marks (at the time, around $60,000.00) and meet her boyfriend seems a hopeless task. Even after watching the outcomes, it never seems likely, only being achieved through extraordinary events.

This movie is very true to its title, in that most of it is Lola running, physically and against the clock. While you could doubtlessly spend a great deal of time analyzing the symbolism in the movie, I'm more interested in the characters presented and a direct reading. Tykwer creates a world full of energy and brightness, although nothing else is as bright as Lola's bright red hair. Using quick and unexpected techniques such as using cartoon's and snapshots it's clear that we have to observe this universe by it's own rules. It keeps a frantic pace, and in portions feels like a music video or a video game. Keeping up with the pace, we are given people's whole lives in seconds, via snapshots, while the clock runs. Lola's run is given it's own soundtrack, and while I'm no fan of techno music, it works here, not only for pacing but informing Lola's actions, more so because it's Fraka Potente herself delivering the lyrics, which put us inside her characters head. "

Manni's trust in Lola from the very beginning establishes her as very competent. She's normally so competent that he briefly blames her for his error, as it's so unheard of for her not to be on time. Given their meager resources, what could he possibly hope Lola could do to help him? Not much, if looking at it reasonably, but he calls her anyway and begs her to help anyway. He does give reality a nod though, by making robbing the store his back up plan. Lola is confident she can help, although she has little reason to be. From Manny's remark, reminding her of how she always says "Love can do everything." we know that Lola operates on some degree of faith. She doesn't have a plan, only the most likely person to help in mind, her Papa. After seeing their interaction we realize that this isn't a good plan at all. Her Papa is not concerned in the least about her problem, too caught up in his own interests to care. It does speak of her limited resources however, that she chooses Papa every time. From the first outcome we can gather that she doesn't have confidence as much as hope, and an unwillingness to accept her fate.
In some ways, what she does doesn't matter to her as much as the fact that she's doing something.

We skip many moral questions, given the fact that the best possible outcome is for Manni to complete his task, which is to give Ronnie, a shady criminal figure, his money and prove that he can be trusted. Presumably, Manni is trying to get ahead in the criminal organization. Lola is clearly aware of these activities and even helps Ronnie with them. This choice of occupation may be necessary for the film, as there aren't many legal ways to make 100,000 marks in twenty minutes out of nothing. Their background makes it easier to accept that Manni could rob a store, or Lola, rob a bank, without agonizing over the decisions. Lola sees just about anything as acceptable, as she's acting out of love, and dealing with a life or death situation. Still, she would rather choose the action with the least consequences, and would like to keep Manni from robbing the store. Once he begins, however, she has no qualms about helping him. What's done is done, and with only twenty minutes available, there's little point in being upset about it.

Manni's motive isn't so pure. Although he loves Lola, he is simply concerned with self preservation. This does however convey the amount of trust he has in her, as with his life at stake and a store right in front of him, he still waits twenty minutes like he promises. Manni himself is not incompetent, we see that he successfully completes some difficult transactions, stealing and delivering cars and fencing the diamonds he got as payment. Like Lola's moped getting stolen, he is thrown off track by unexpected events, her not showing up, and Norbert falling on the subway. He can follow directions, but he's not good at thinking on his feet. When he robs the store, he only succeeds because Lola shows up to help him. Moritz Bleibtreau does a great job making Manni likeable enough that we don't shake our heads at Lola's trouble.

Lola is far more comfortable with the unpredictable. Although she may not always what to do, she is committed to doing. Even when she seems helpless, Lola can scream loud enough to break glass, as if to force some action to occur. The only thing unacceptable to her is standing still. Lola's character is very much about action, whether the right one or the wrong one. Franka Potente does an amazing job with the character, making the bright haired larger than life figure very human at the same time. She's unwilling to accept defeat, but at the same time, vulnerable to being hurt by her father's revelations, forgetting her mission for a moment when she realizes he's having an affair, and even sobbing uncontrollably, when she realizes he doesn't really care much about her. In the course of her three runs, we see her show a broad range of emotion, from her first passive acceptance of Papa's rejection, to the second, angry reprisal, and the third, resigned helplessness. Potente makes the most realistic character possible for such an absurd situation.

The supporting cast adds a great deal to the movie, and due to the snapshot technique, we are able to get a great and informed glimpse at the characters Lola's run affects. Armin Rohde in particular is enjoyable as Schuster, the well meaning bank guard, who shows enough kindness in a few scenes to make us care about his character. Herbert Knaup is also great as Papa, the uncaring, self absorbed supposed father, who isn't really concerned with what anyone else wants unless it serves his purposes. Nina Petri also brings a lot to her character, her most powerful moment being her last scene, left in Papa's office, as he walks off in a great mood, tortured, that she was unable to deliver the uncertain part of her news. Her interactions with Papa and with Lola are very powerful if brief. The entire cast is superb, without a weak point.

Initially it may appear that we're given three possible scenarios, each happening differently due to Lola's interaction with the man on the stairs with the dog. Each of the interactions does have consequences for Lola and everyone she bumps into and of course, these interactions affect other interactions, most notably in the third scenario where her actions cause Mike the bicyclist to run into Norbert, who in turn runs into Manni allowing him an action other than robbing the store. I don't think that three possible outcomes is accurate though. Initially, as shown in the first run, coming up with the 100,000 marks in twenty minutes is an impossible scenario. Lola simply doesn't have the resources to do it. She's unprepared for her father's rejection and has no other plan but to help Manni. Doing this however, she learns how to use a gun. She also learns about the obstacles she'll run into, although her knowledge is limited by the fact that she loses time by being tripped and falling down the stairs. By the third run, she takes charge, leaping over the man and his dog and snarling back at them. Informed by the first two runs she deals with the obstacles more efficiently, although not realizing that this will actually prevent her from confronting her father. She has no way to know that her actions have already solved the problem, sending Norbert across town, to run into Manni, leaving her far more ahead than she realizes. Her dedication to action demands that she come up with the money, and whether through chance, or a sign from above, she ends up in the casino and her scream pays off, leaving her with more than enough money, and the chance to save Schuster's life, perhaps the only character who was consistently kind to her.

Ultimately, all three runs are necessary, the first two run being "exploration." As the Eliot quote in the title says "We shall not cease from exploration. and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." Lola's strength is her running, her refusal to "cease exploring." and with the third run she truly "knows the beginning for the first time." Only then is she able to accomplish the impossible task, and prove to Manni that "Love can do everything." even if it means resetting the whole world to try again.


Anonymous said...

This is another film that's being added to my ever growing "must watch" list Brent.

INDBrent said...

Wonderful Paul! This one is a must see in my opinion.

Unknown said...

Another excellent review. I haven't watched this film in ages but do remember being very impressed by it. That being said, as good as RUN LOLA RUN is, I think that Tykwer's next film, THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR is his masterpiece - an incredible piece of filmmaking.

I also really enjoyed his homage to paranoid conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s, THE INTERNATIONAL. It got dumped on by a lot of critics but I really enjoyed it.

INDBrent said...

Thanks J.D.! I really enjoyed "The Princess and THe Warrior" as well. Tykwer's built quite a distintive catalog. My girlfriend wrote a guest post here not too long ago on another of his films "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" another fascinating film, which brought Tykwer back to mind for me! I agree with you on "The International" It was very entertaining and smarter than most action films aim for.

Jeffrey Scott said...

I absolutely LOVE this film and I have the soundtrack as well. Great music, and story. Great review!

INDBrent said...

Thanks Jeffrey! It's a good one for sure! Thanks for stopping in!

Dave said...

This is one of my favorites, great write-up! And I agree with the other posters that Tykwer is a great talent. Princess and the Warrior and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer are distinctive works of art. Heaven, not so much, but it was an admirable attempt. He's a brave filmmaker.