Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Run Lola Run

I was looking forward to watching this movie. My film teacher decided it was good enough for class (though he did show Donnie Darko, so I find his judgment a little suspect), and I've heard all sorts of good things about the movie. Imagine my surprise, then, when the lights came down in the classroom and I had to sit through the longest 76 minutes of my life.

Run Lola Run concerns itself with its titular character (Franka Potente), who receives a frantic phone call from her boyfriend at the start of the film. She was supposed to pick him up after he made an exchange for a local crime boss, but someone nicked her moped so she never came. Well, poor Manni had to take the tube, and he accidentally left a sack full of 100,000 Deutschmarks on the train when he ran from cops. A homeless man picked up the bag, and now Manni has to come up with 100,000 marks before crime boss Ronnie meets him for the payment.

What results in a visually inventive yet ultimately dull piece of flash that's so preoccupied with creating an original film that it does not bother to make it good. Lola agrees to meet Manni in order to prevent him from doing something silly like robbing a store, and her 20-minute run repeats two more times, each with wildly different outcomes based on the tiniest variations. When Lola accidentally runs into a person or near a cyclist, we see snapshots of their futures, and these futures play out indirectly as a response to their interactions with Lola.

But those aren't the only tricks writer-director Tom Tykwer uses to add flash to the story: he intersperses Lola's runs with animated stretches, film references, and total asides to background characters. For him, Lola is running so fast that she break the very properties of physics, even though she still moves realistically. When a run ends in tragedy, he fades to red, shows us a tinted flashback, then starts the whole thing over again.

Now, the point of the alternate storylines is, of course, a simple take on the butterfly effect, that old theory that the tiniest interactions have the most drastic consequences. You know, a butterfly flaps its wings in Beijing, and the distortion in the wind magnifies until a thunderstorm hits San Fransisco. Every time Lola begins her run something minor occurs in the beginning animated segment, and it generally informs the new direction her run will take her.

You could also argue that Tykwer is making an argument for the idea of predestination and fate with these runs. When Lola runs past a cyclist the first time and we see his future, we see that he eventually crashes, falls in love with the nurse who helps him recover, and the two live happily ever after. The second time Lola passes him, we see that he becomes a bum. Everything is all a game of chance, and our lives all depend on the tiny interactions that make them up.

What I took from the film, however, is that Tykwer simply proves that film has no consequences, that emotional involvement is pointless because it's all based on the whims of its creators. Run Lola Run is its own trilogy, the same idea repeated three times with just enough variations to make them "different;" even characters can come back from death if people love them enough. I suppose that could be a meta-statement of sorts, but really it just comes off like Tykwer only had enough material for a short film and decided, logic be damned, to just repeat the thing three different times.

Any enjoyment you might take from this film can be directly attributed to editor Mathilde Bonnefoy, who offers up a veritable feast of quick cuts and visceral editing. However, I couldn't help but wonder how a film only 76 minutes and filled with such an action-packed style could be so boring. Most if not all of the blame falls upon Tykwer, who tried to write funny lines and failed, derailed its interesting structure with some pointless shots that strip the film of its urgency, then forcing us to sit through these flaws two more times. The actors do a pretty good job, but at the end of the day if a thriller is going to risk thrills by taking itself this seriously it better have the substance to back it up. Run Lola Run simply doesn't.

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