Survey my record collection and you’ll find The Ramones sitting alongside Yes. So it is with films too. For every STALKER (1979), which is like a triple album gatefold of a film like Tales from Topographic Oceans, there is RUN LOLA RUN: a 2 minute blast of Blitzrieg Bop.
Franka Potente is visually stunning as the title character, filling the screen with a shock of red hair and a piercing scream that rivals Oskar in THE TIN DRUM (1979). She receives a phone call from Mani, her boyfriend, a petty criminal, who has left a DM100,000 bag of loot on a train. He needs to return the money to Ronnie the crime boss in twenty minutes, otherwise he’ll kill him.
What follows is a version of GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) on speed. Lola runs to Manni to prevent him doing anything rash and three contrasting narrative strands play out, each one is inflected by minor incidents that send Lola’s fate off-course. These incidents are repeated and become familiar over the course of the film as Tykwer gives them adjustments to show the quantum potential of each incidental character she passes: a montage of polaroid images reveal the lives beyond their encounter with Lola as she interacts with them at different points. Lola is a like a character from a video game, able to pick herself up and begin again.
The crime that happens off-screen, gun-play and the shifting perspective on the same events recalls Tarantino, but Tykwer is a visual stylist and the most striking elements is his seamless experimentation with different film-stock, the interlacing of animated sequences, time-lapse, and clever editing techniques work together brilliantly to create an exhilarating experience. It’s probably the best example of nineties visual aesthetics coming together – it has elements of games, advertising trickery and the thumping soundtrack of a music video.
Despite all of the clever technical wizardry at play, the film never forgets that the audience needs empathy with the characters. Potente’s striking face reacts with subtlety to the twists and turns. There is a warmth in her performance as she deals with her estranged father who is a banker and his interactions with him and his mistress are moments of economic genius.
Tykwer has gone on to collaborate with the Wachowskis on the honourable failure that is CLOUD ATLAS (2012) and in many ways this films lays the groundwork for their THE MATRIX (1999) with its visual and narrative trickery playing with the idea of popular philosophy. Many of these techniques have become a little passé now, but RUN LOLA RUN is still a blast! Hey ho, let’s go!