Lola Rennt (Tom Tykwer, 1998)

“The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is pure theory. Off we go! “

Introduction

I went through a phase with LoveFilm, I managed to get loads of free ‘months’ trials with the old ScreenSelect and then I moved to LoveFilm and even paid on a monthly basis for a while. I stuck a huge bulk of classic movies on the list and, at one point, this DVD arrived. I knew it was some sort of ‘classic’ but wasn’t 100% sure why … similar feeling when Cinema Paradiso arrived in the post. Fact is, I knew it had some importance so it needed to be watched. Sarah bailed on it first off – some classic German movie is not neccessarily her thing – so I sat down prepared to watch alone. Within the first 10 minutes, I paused the DVD and forced Sarah to watch it. It’s one thing when a film has a good opening, its another when it literally forces you to find your partner to watch it too. Absolutely brilliant movie! (Though why they don’t use the poster I selected above, for the DVD cover, I have no idea, because it looks so much better than the current one)

Knowing View

Its a time-shift story – akin to Sliding Doors and The Butterfly Effect – but set in this neon-coloured Berlin. Within the first 10 minutes we find Manni (Bleibtreu), Lola’s (Potente) boyfriend, in a situation without 100,000 DM’s that he owes a murderous drug-dealer – Manni had a very easy plan to just deliver the bag of money but left the bag of money on a train and it was robbed. Nevertheless, Lola has 20 minutes to get the money. Boom, set-up achieved. The next twenty minutes is shown three times. Even though we see three potential outcomes, there are the odd few ticks, as if some sense of deja-vu has been stumbled upon, and as she rushes past different characters we see how her life caused some sort of butterfly effect and decided the fate – whether she makes a person a millionnaire or whether they end up in prison. These small interludes are shown in photo’s shown at lightening speed so it doesn’t disrupt – jumping to show the fate and then jumping back into the story. All of it, exceptionally fast-paced.

Within this mix of fun-and-games, you have more sensitive issues at hand – namely, Lola’s parents. Her father is having an affair and is a workaholic while minor roles, through other events, are expanded … the guard at the bank who seems to have a paternal connection to Lola, though we never do see her Mother. Her father works in a bank also, which obviously assists the story in a huge way – considering it is money that she needs.

One thing that I always expect from any decent film is tone – a clear tone established. Does the film know what it is – if it is an action movie, then don’t go too romantic. If its an out-and-out comedy, don’t expect me to take you too seriously. There are always examples that surpass the criteria – 28 Days Later (though you could argue that any decent zombie film has connections to the human condition, see Romero’s movies…) for example – but, more often than not, if the tone is established, then the direction and cinematography is to be praised highly (clap clap Twyker and Frank Griebe). Lola Rennt hits the tone perfectly. Time-travel movies, in my opinion, are incredibly difficult to take seriously. So, something like The Butterfly Effect I despise because amongst the fun-and-games of time-travel, we also have to suddenly take alot of things seriously – lile paedophilia and paraplegics. Woo-hoo … woah … thats not fun. But with Lola Rennt it is a film to enjoy the experience, whereby when it does touch on her family and love for Manni, it never goes crazy, it just uses the sequence to slow the pace before ramping it up again. And again. And again. The pace is such a key factor too (the editor Mathilde Bonnefoy managed to move to hollywood and edit The International), and this is purely down to flawless editing.

One bit which has always interested me was the animation sequences as Lola runs down the stairs. I always felt that they seemed a bit strange – as if they shot sequences that didn’t work and had to create something to fill the gap, thus grabbing an artist to create the sequences. Whatever the case, this strange – dare I say it – ‘wacky’ mix of media simply adds to the surreal, neon edge. It also speeds up the the start of each sequence – something that wouldn’t strike me as neccessary. I think about when I watched Vantage Point at the cinema, because they ‘flash-backed’ seven times, by the time we got to the fourth time – because it started pretty much in the same way – the audience literally groaned as it felt like everything just rewound and we had to sit through boredom for another cliffhanger before rewinding again. You don’t feel like that with Lola Rennt – you actually feel like it exciting to see where it goes. You want to see the characters she bumps into and see where they end up … you notice the tramp and beg for her to stop him!

If there is one thing I would change, it would be the, slightly pretentious beginning prior to the opening conversation between Manni and Lola. A narrator says “Man… probably the most mysterious species on our planet…” and goes into this monologue about chances and what not while moving between loads of different people on the planet – some of which are characters in the film, some not – ending with one guy stating the quoted line I have chosen at the start of this review. Not a bad call, not completely out of tone – just a little unneccessary. Other than that, it really is a brilliant movie – one of those international films whereby you realise that, sometimes, Hollywood is not as good as it thinks it is. Then again, I always felt that Go! was very similar … released a year later interestingly (directed by Doug Liman, who directed The Bourne Identity starring Lola herself, Franka Potente) – neon colour scheme, great soundtrack, and multiple narratives – but without that great selling point of Lola Rennt of different outcomes. It’s what makes Sliding Doors great, and due to the perfectly pitched tone, its what makes Lola Rennt, much moreso that Sliding Doors and Go, a film that you could watch again and again …
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