Our Life Is a Movie: Lola rennt (Run Lola Run) (1998)

(spoilers ahead)

The movies I have written about here up to now have all been movies I had just seen for the first time. Today I wanted to start writing about movies that I already know and also love and the first one has to be Tom Tykwer’s Lola rennt (Run Lola Run), mostly because I really, really love it, it changed my way of looking at movies and I just recently discussed it with one of my courses and noticed some new things. So, with other movies I’d just talk about the one thing that makes the movie interesting to me, but Lola rennt is stuffed with things to talk about. Again, I could write a long book about this movie and obviously people have written about it already, but that’s not my intention here. I want to focus on some aspects that fit on this blog the most and that are by coincidence the things I only recently discovered (or realized) on my 20th+ viewing. But just so you know how much there potentially is to discuss, all the things I’m not talking about here now:

  • game symbolism
  • color scheme
  • movie references and homages
  • metafictional elements
  • the concept of time
  • questions of life
  • allusions to mythology
  • the use of camera, editing and music
  • spiral symbolism
  • coincidence vs. fate
  • the use of non-linear structure

Yes, on the surface this is an exciting movie about Lola (Franka Potente) trying to get 100.000DM in 20 minutes to save her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) but all of the above is part of it and every little detail of the movie has a purpose and is connected to the rest. Even if the movie might seem a little dated (also due to all the movies that have copied parts of it since), I still think it is a masterpiece and unequaled in the way it is conceived and executed. I’ve yet to see a movie so full of ideas and meanings while never feeling heavy or pretentious for a second.

Here is what I do want to talk about:

Lola as a strong female character

I complained enough how most movies don’t feature any strong female characters (or female characters in general, am I right, Lawrence?), so maybe with this view on things I realized for the first time what an exceptional character Lola is in that regard. She is always strong, she never gives up, she doesn’t rely on anyone, neither her parents but also not her boyfriend. She tries to save him but out of love and because she wants to, not because he tells her to. And he is helpless without her. She is the one who always has a plan and Manni seems almost relieved that she won’t find a way out of this situation. She is always active and never passive. If something doesn’t go the way she planned, she doesn’t despair but takes action again. She essentially is a superhero, but even female superheroes in comics aren’t as determined as Lola. She also doesn’t fall into any of the traps most “strong” female characters like imitating male attributes (cursing, being violent, drinking) or relying on her sexuality to get what she wants. She isn’t perfect, she has doubts and asks question where she can’t expect real answers (not that this is a bad thing), but she is as independent as any person could be. It’s hard for me to come up with a similar female character (but I’m open for suggestions).

Lola vs. authority

Throughout the movie, Lola wins over authority, making every instance of authority in the movie redundant. Her mother from the start seems to live in her own world, so that Lola doesn’t even think of asking her for help. Her father is strong and angry all the time and in the first run, throws her out onto the street after revealing that he isn’t even her real father. In the second run, she takes over control and makes him obsolete, taking away his power as the bank’s manager. The police also seems clueless most of the time, first accidentally shooting her, then not realizing that she is the bank robber. Later, she also doesn’t listen to the medic in the ambulance. The third run is the one where she gradually takes out every authority figure. First the security guard by stopping his heart with her looks. Then she abandons religion by avoiding the nuns and almost running over the man on the bike with his “God”-shirt. In the great final confrontation at the casino, she wins against everyone, the croupier, the security guards there and eventually everyone in the room. One of my favourite shots in the movie is seeing everyone in the casino standing around helplessly, looking at her as if they wait for Lola’s command. She doesn’t need them anymore, doesn’t need anyone to tell her what to do, yes, maybe doesn’t even need society anymore because she won the final game and now has the money to sustain herself. She becomes a truly independent and free person. By bringing the security guard back to life, she essentially becomes a godlike figure, the ultimate authority. Although she rules others in the end, she only does it to rule over herself. She does not go down the same path as the authorities she made obsolete, she only takes control over her personality and her future, free of her education (her parents), laws (police), religion (nuns) and the rules of the game (roulette). She ultimately beats fate to achieve complete self-determination.

lola (casino)

I adore the movie for all the things it does and the way they are achieved, but these two aspects make the movie even better, in my mind. It really does become the story of going against what people expect from you and finding your own way that is right for you, but not for everyone else. It’s Lola’s way but she doesn’t expect anyone else to go the same way, she just wants to be free to choose for herself and I can’t imagine a more desirable thing.

Thanks to my German course students for making me aware of some of the things I mentioned here. I don’t remember who said what exactly but if they read this, they know and can be proud of themselves that they taught this semi-old dog some new tricks.