One of the arguments currently espoused by film reviewers is that MTV, with its rapid, non sequitur editing style, has ruined the movies, turning them into fast-paced visual jumbles for an audience which can no longer tolerate anything less than constant stimulation. German writer-director Tom Tykwer’s exhilarating Run Lola Run utterly disproves this theory.
Tykwer takes the pastiche approach favored by music video directors and fashions a smart, breathless narrative about time itself. The style of Run Lola Run – which combines animation, rapid-fire jump cuts and extreme angles – definitely calls attention to itself, but it’s in the service of a story where the smallest action has massive repercussions.
The film opens when the fiery, punkish Lola (Franka Potente) receives a frantic telephone call from her petty criminal boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu). He’s just lost a bag full of money that he was supposed to give to his boss, a dangerous, hot-tempered gangster who will not take this mistake lightly. In 20 minutes, Manni is supposed to deliver 100,000 deutsche marks. What to do?
A desperate Manni proposes robbing the supermarket across from his phone booth, but Lola pleads for him to wait for her arrival. Somehow she will find a way to get them out of this mess. Lola thinks for an instant, then starts running through the city streets, her magenta hair streaking behind her like a flare, and heads for the office of her bank manager father.
By employing real time and a perfectly complementary techno score – which he co-wrote with Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil –Tykwer gives Lola’s race to save Manni a heart-pounding urgency. But just as Run Lola Run seems to become stylistically predictable, he throws everything for a loop.
Lola and Manni’s impromptu crime spree has turned tragic, and the action slows down for the memory of an intimate conversation to resurface. One thing becomes clear: This ragtag couple actually love each other immensely. So in the moment that a wounded Lola calls out that she doesn’t want her time to stop, the film itself seems to hear her.
The narrative instantly goes back to the precise moment when she commences her mad dash. Tykwer stages this vital 20 minutes three times during Run Lola Run. In each scenario, the outcome is altered by split-second decisions, and the people Lola and Manni encounter take on radically different roles depending upon how they meet.
Film has the inherent ability to compress time and heighten seemingly inconsequential actions, and Tykwer pushes these narrative devices to new heights. Run Lola Run is all about forward motion and making every second count. After sitting still during its kinetic 81-minute running time, the urge to get up and go becomes almost unbearable. That feeling doesn’t rise from wanting to flee the film, but to put the adrenaline rush it has created into immediate action.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].