Film Notes: RUN LOLA RUN

2 p.m. Sunday, February 21, 2016
53 Wall Street Auditorium
Introduction and Film Notes by Michael Kerbel

Written and directed by Tom Tykwer (1998) 80 mins
Cinematography by Frank Griebe
Music by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, and Tom Tykwer
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Starring Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu

“Cinema that interests me is cinema about openings, unresolved questions and experiments; cinema that explores the possibilities offered by narratives and associations, without refusing chaos, chance, destiny, or the unexpected.” —Tom Tykwer

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy—and exhilarating—afternoon. The plot is simple: Lola (Franka Potente) has twenty minutes to obtain100,000 Marks (approximately $50,000), and deliver the money to her miles-away boyfriend in order to save his life. The execution is complex: as Lola runs (“Lola rennt”) through Berlin, director Tom Tykwer utilizes a convoluted structure and a postmodern arsenal of techniques, including fast and slow motion, startling camera angles and movements, animation, video, photos, vibrant colors (especially red), flashbacks, flashforwards, jump cuts, and extremely rapid editing (average shot length: 2.6 seconds, with many subliminal images). Tykwer: “I wanted RUN LOLA RUN to grab the viewers and drag them along, to give them a roller-coaster ride. I wanted the sheer, unadorned pleasure of speed.”

The pleasure of speed: Tykwer announces his major themes and motifs within the first few minutes. Two quotations, “We shall not cease from exploration…and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started…and know the place for the first time” (T.S. Eliot), and “After the game is before the game” (German soccer coach Sepp Herberger), express the film’s time-twisting circularity. Time is again emphasized by an ominous pendulum, the repetitive tick-tock techno score, and a monstrous-looking clock that swallows the camera, propelling us into our journey. From a blurry crowd, individuals whom Lola will encounter emerge in focus and gaze at us: as in life, random people become important—through “chance, destiny, or the unexpected.” A narrator’s metaphysical questions (“Who are we? Where do we come from?”), let us know that RUN LOLA RUN will not be just an edge-of-your-seat thriller. A uniformed man utters another Herberger maxim, “The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes. That’s a fact. Everything else is pure theory. Here we go!” He kicks a soccer ball toward us: this will be in-your-face filmmaking, and something of a game, like a sports match (including “do-overs”) and a video game (where you can start again and vary your adventure). Here we go! Lola’s cartoon doppelgänger, who will reappear at crucial moments, runs into a tunnel, then a vortex, smashing clocks along the way. Lola’s quest will be essentially about overcoming obstacles of time and space.

As Lola runs, she carries a legacy of film history: Von Sternberg’s THE BLUE ANGEL (Marlene Dietrich as the cabaret singer Lola-Lola); Lang’s METROPOLIS (the Moloch-like devouring clock) and his M (the frequent spiral patterns, also reminiscent of Hitchcock’s VERTIGO); Resnais, Truffaut, and Godard; Kieslowski; Tarantino; avant-garde film; crime movies; and the New German Cinema of the previous generation, particularly Fassbinder’s THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN, which connected Germany’s postwar revival to the country’s 1954 World Cup victory, led by Herberger. The film also recalls Wim Wenders’s WINGS OF DESIRE, made eleven years earlier. Wenders captures the black-and-white dreariness of a divided Berlin; Tykwer portrays the rainbow dazzle of a reunified city. But both films are poignant expressions of the desire to reinvent oneself and transcend barriers, a determination fueled by romance.

DID YOU KNOW: For the shot of the apparently thousands of people spelling out the title LOLA RENNT, the same 300 extras formed each letter separately, and the nine shots were composited together.

Presented in the Treasures from the Yale Film Archive series with support from Paul L. Joskow '70 M.Phil., '72 Ph.D. Printed Film Notes are distributed to the audience before each Treasures screening.

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