Run hyper-kinetic German film from 1998 is pretty fast. The premise, in which a woman has to find a lot of German money within 20 minutes, is a clever one: the movie plays out in real time with three different variations on the story, which show a lot of different ways the story could have panned out. All three follow the same structure, but they all have different outcomes, and watching how these outcomes appear is a mesmerizing joy.
This is a kind of plot that lends itself to a very fast style of directing, and that is exactly what director Tom Tykwer does. There are very few scenes when the eponymous hero isn’t running, running, and running some more, and Tykwer paces his camera to match.
Every style in the book is thrown in, such as animation, split screen, the use of different film stock when he switches characters, red lighting, and many more. They are all used well, they never over-power the story, and they are combined with a few ideas of his own. I particularly like his ‘and then’ idea, where we would be shown about 10 photos briefly chronicling the life of a person who has a run-in with Lola. It is this kind of imagination the film has in abundance, and it seeps through every frame.
However, the film is never so fast it is over-powering, which could have been its biggest pitfall. It would have been very easy to make this incomprehensible, like Transformers[/pullthis], and impenetrable to the human eye: instead, each shot lasts as long as it needs to for us to understand what’s going on, and then it cuts elsewhere. This shows great restraint from Tykwer, which deserves recognition.
Franka Potente, who plays Lola, is good. She fulfils all of her requirements for the role, and she makes a perfectly believable couple with Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), and we can see (if not understand -Manni is complete idiot) that she really wants to save him.
She even excels in her quieter scenes, when something other than her physical shape is required.
The three variations of her conversations with her semi-estranged father are all rather affecting, and the existential talks she has with Manni, in the moments when we are allowed a glimpse into their private life, are all really well done, when they could easily have marred the raw energy that flows in the rest of the film.
The message is clear: that our lives are not fixed, and that anything could happen at any moment to derail it, or anything could happen to completely change it for the better. The ‘and then’ idea shows this in its most stripped back form, but the conceit itself is a clue pointing towards it: why would Tykwer tell three different variations on a story and make them all as believable as each other?
There are a lot of things I like about this film. The innovative camera angles, the techniques, the animation, the plot and dialogue as a whole, are quite pleasing.
However, I have two problems. The first, small one, is that Manni, as I said, is a complete idiot. Why she is with him, and goes to these lengths to save him, is never known. I don’t think she could tell us, either. But she does a good job of making us believe it, and I have believed stranger things in films, so I can let that go.
My second problem is more fundamental. The film is given a happy ending, after two not very happy endings. If Tykwer’s message is that our lives are tangible, why should we care about a happy ending: it kind of defeats the point of the film.
The characters are all very-well rounded, and they are all convincing in what they do, but the ending seems a bit out of place, and even a bit clichÃ©d. They walk off into the distance, holding hands, and then the film ends. It’s a nice ending, but crucially, one that Tykwer wants us to care about, when the point of the film, while it isn’t that you shouldn’t care, isn’t far removed from that.
On the whole, this is a fantastic, exhilarating, and extremely well-made tale that puts Hollywood to shame within its kinetic action sequences, and featuring a very committed performance from the lead (and, we can imagine, the director as well). Gripping stuff.