RUN LOLA RUN (LOLA RENNT) (Germany, 1998) ***
RLR is, at the very least, an interesting novelty, an unclassifiable work which is, above all, a stylistic exercise. The place is Berlin, though not identified as such and with no landmarks identifiable by strangers. Twenty-something Manni, a small-time courier for powerful mobsters is doing nicely and hopes to be promoted. But then the unexpected happens. Having delivered some goods to a buyer, and received 100,000 Deutschmarks (at this writing $ 52,356), he leaves his plastic bag in the subway when he makes a hurried exit to evade ticket inspectors. (OK, we all know that one always should keeps holding such loot with clenched fingers, but the film, being a fantasy, makes suspension of disbelief easy). If Manni returns empty-handed, the top mobster will doubtlessly kill him.
The panicked, hysterical young man phones his girlfriend Lola who asks him to wait 20 minutes until she gets there with the money -- which she does not have but somehow will get. She leaves her home, starts running, and runs and runs and runs. She's in great physical form, but see above the part about suspension of disbelief. This also applies to the ground she covers in just 20 minutes.
Manni is waiting for her outside a supermarket, which he said he would rob if Lola didn't get there on time. We keep track of this on a large clock which at the start showed 20 minutes to 12, and gradually, inexorably, suspensefully closes in on the fatal hour of 12. This is High Noon, Germanicized with a twist!
It's all over in 20 minutes. Which leaves us 60 more of film. What the director does with them is to start Scenario One all over again, work in--with meticulous and unpredictable spontaneity--small variations, increase them to larger ones. Then he backtracks and ends up with a different ending. The same goes for the 20-minute Scenario Three.
If I am cryptic it is that giving details, or even the main lines of the story (-ries) would be a killjoy. Especially since the movie's maker uses a full array of visual (and sound) tricks, from cartoons that connect to the action to split-screen, to pixillation, still shots, varying speeds, video, etc.
Lola in the running (and the stopping) process discovers a number of new things, mainly about her banker father and about herself. Again, I'll be cagey on the subject.
The Berlin of the film seems to be a sparsely populated, minor traffic city, which brought to my mind the title of the EricWolfgang Korngold opera The Dead City. I am guessing that the film must have been on Sundays or holidays. The relative emptiness of the sets makes it easy to keep track of Lola. Better yet, she can be always spotted by her distinctive, punkish hair painted flaming red-orange. The device is essentially similar to Haskell Wexler's, who made the classic Medium Cool (1969), a tour-de-force which dealt with the actual riots during the famous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Using a great deal of documentary footage, it inserted Wexler's actors in the streets and the crowds. For the audience to identify immediately Verna Bloom, Haskell had her wear a bright yellow dress that always stood out.
How much of a love story RLR may be does not get pictured by overt sentiments. There is just one small interlude of the lovers talking in bed. Otherwise, it is the extremely kinetic nature of the film plus the fact that Lola will do anything to save Manni.
Humor has always been an iffy aspect of Teutonic cinema. It does exist here however, but in indirect and/or played-down ways which do not get into the cuteness or broad effects that we find in much of American films these days. The funniest gag may be of Lola stepping out of a bank with a stash of stolen money and facing a regiment of heavily armed police. She is taken for a customer and pushed out of harm's way by solicitous lawmen. And the last line in the movie, spoken by Manni, is deliciously ironical.
RLR, beyond showing the fickle finger of fate, has no real depth, carries
no significant dialogue, no realistic or symbolic weight. But it is fresh
and inventive, has a good matching musical score, excellent camera work,
original editing (that's what makes the movie), and a fine musical commentary.
It has avoided such smart-aleck shoals as pedantry, pretentiousness, pseudo-philosophy,
pseudo-populism, and so on. On the surface, it is a light-weight job that
could baffle audiences partial to well-made, well-told narratives. But
it's also very clever.