Run Lola Run is a film based on a very simple premise: Lola’s boyfriend Manni, has lost 100,000 of some Very Bad Men’s Deutschmarks, and they’re going to meet him in twenty minutes’ time. So Lola (Franka Potente) has twenty minutes to somehow find/borrow/steal 100,000 DM and get to Manni. So she’d better start running. And run she does. To a soundtrack of pulsing techno music she sprints through Berlin – heading for the bank where her father works with some vague plan of getting the money off him. As she runs, she comes across various characters, and, in a brilliantly realised idea, as she passes them, we see glimpses of their future in a series of polaroid photographs.
In Run Lola Run when Lola arrives at the bank, things go horribly awry and Lola’s not able to achieve her goals, everything is going wrong and falling apart… and then suddenly she’s back in her room at home, hanging up the phone after speaking to Manni, and off and running again – another chance at getting the money, almost like a video game and she’s got an extra life. Everything is much the same but slightly different – and the futures mapped out in polaroids are all altered (tiny decisions can alter our fates decisively you see). In the second event, you start to see the significance of minor acts or characters who appeared in passing in the first bit.
In all, we see Lola’s vital twenty minutes pan out three times with three different results – it’s a really neat narrative idea, skilfully executed. The pace in Run Lola Run is furious – there’s no time to be bored, and while there isn’t time for much character developments, each is sketched out satisfactorily enough.
Run Lola Run is starting to look a bit dated – it has an incredibly 90s feel in terms of the fashion and music. Also, the vague musings on fate and chance play like they’ve come from the mind of a slightly stoned philosophy undergraduate. And you’ve got to suspend your disbelief to a challenging extent at times (though the hyper-real atmosphere built up makes this a little easier). But it’s full of energy and has more ideas packed into its 74 minutes running time than many films twice its length. Run Lola Run is relentlessly innovative, using interesting shots, jumping into animation at times, or just building in neat ideas – such as when Lola is trying to work out which family member to turn to, they appear as a kind of mental roulette wheel that spins and eventually lands on her dad. I’d imagine that this film has probably been an inspiration for young directors with big ideas and small budgets – certainly I’d suggest there are echoes of Run Lola Run in the work of Edgar Wright for example.
Director Tom Tykwer has never quite delivered on the promise he showed here, though he has an adaptation of David Mitchells’ novel Cloud Atlas in the pipeline, which has the potential to be quite something…