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25 May, 2005

Review: Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run) (1998)

I may be one of the last people in the world to have seen this.  It's considered a 'must-see' film not only for stylistic reasons, but simply because it's an extremely good film.  I knew virtually nothing about the plot beforehand, which improved the experience, so I won't say much about that.  Given an opportunity to read a synopsis, don't (warning: the reviews on the Amazon entry linked above contain several).  This should be sufficient:
Partly because Lola failed to pick up her boyfriend, Manni, on time, he lost 100,000 DM belonging to a gangster.  Unless Lola can find 100,000 DM and meet Manni within twenty minutes, he'll be killed.

Considering the major stylistic conceit of the film (which becomes apparent soon enough – I won't reveal it here!), it's a little surprising how intently one is drawn to the characters and cares about their welfare. There are times when the viewer has foreknowledge of coming events (or thinks he/she does...), and I repeatedly found myself willing Lola to run faster – or, indeed, slower.

One of the first impressions received was of the excellent pacing. Though the characterisation and dialogue are good, this is no leisurely exploration of peoples' souls; from the outset, the action is frenetic, driven by a techno pulse (actually, the concepts of sampling and remixing are somewhat relevant to the whole film) but with skillful use of dramatic pauses.

The subtext so glaring as to be barely 'sub-' is that the interactions of tiny everyday events (importantly, including random ones) can have life-changing impacts on eventual outcomes. This even extends to the supporting characters. Some are only seen for a few seconds as Lola brushes past them in the street, but an inventive flicker of polaroids summarises the rest of each's life after that encounter, all within a few seconds.

The production has a small cast and presumably a fairly low budget, but that's no criticism – the plot didn't require many expensive special effects, and since the majority of the film is set on the streets of Berlin, filming there accentuated realism. Even the music was by the director, with vocals by Franka Potente (Lola).

Suspension of disbelief was further assisted by most of the cast being unfamiliar, allowing one to concentrate on the characters instead. Moritz Bleibtreu (Manni) was vaguely familiar (I may have seen him on Polish TV), but don't associate him with any specific role or context. Franka Potente has subsequently appeared in 'The Bourne Identity' and 'The Bourne Supremacy', but I haven't seen the former and paid little attention to the latter when it was shown in-flight from New York last November, so it was as if I'd never seen her before.
Incidentally, I'd been slightly concerned by reviews saying "Franka's a babe" or similar, as an oddly-proportioned supermodel or polished starlet would have been entirely wrong for the part, but I was glad to find her 'humanly' attractive (Lola's scarlet hair may be iconic, but it did little for me).


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