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Run Lola Run (1998)

Run Lola Run

December 24th, 2008

I first saw this terrific German film a number of years ago, and for quite some time now I’d been eager to check it out again.  The copious amount of snow that fell this past weekend was as good a reason as any!

Released in 1999, the story of Run Lola Run is pretty simple:  Lola (Franka Potente) is a young woman who has 20 minutes to come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks, or something very bad will happen to her boyfriend Manni.  Through some great camerawork and a little visual trickery, we follow Lola as she makes a mad dash through the city streets in an effort to some-how, some-way, come up with the money.  

This is a film with a lot on its mind — particularly some deep questions about chance, fate, and destiny.  But with the exception of a bit of a pompous voice-over in the opening minutes, the film chooses to explore those issues through what is pretty much non-stop, pulse-pounding action.  As noted above, the camera-work is very sharp, getting the viewer viscerally involved in Lola’s run through the city without making one too nauseous, Blair Witch style.  The pulsing soundtrack helps, too, as do the occasional switches into frenetic animation.  The film is very well-edited, as all of the above is somehow mixed together into an energetic yet easy-to-follow whole.  Coming in at a lean 81 minutes, there’s not a moment of fat to be found here.  (In terms of pace,the short Run Lola Run is sort of the polar opposite if Once Upon a Time in America, which I reviewed yesterday!)  

The way the film plays with time is fascinating.  I won’t spoil any surprises, but there are some clever twists in the way the tale unfolds.  I also really love the fast-paced “and then” montages, in which the film will occasionally pause to show us, in a quick series of shots, the differing ways in which the lives of several of the people who Lola encounters might unfold, based on the vagaries of chance.  As I wrote above, this film has a lot on its mind.

All of this would fall down, of course, were Franka Potente not so compellingly winning as Lola.  Clever and resourceful, yet right on the edge of total desperation, this is a star-making role.  Potente has gone on to appear in the Bourne movies and The Shield, but I don’t know if she’s ever been better than she is here.

One final note:  Be sure to watch this film in the original German with subtitles, as opposed to the dreadful English over-dub!  You’ll thank me, believe me.… [continued]