A T.S. Eliot quote. A swinging pendulum and spinning hands on a monstrous clock. Countless faded figures moving quickly by.
And in the center of the crush, a man in a cop uniform says (in German), "The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes. That's a fact. Everything else is pure theory." He kicks it into the sky.
Well, Tom Tykwer certainly knows how to get our attention. And it's only a few minutes in the kinetic, high-octane, colourful world of "Run Lola Run" -- a wild action/romance that studies the ripple effect of our lives, and the changes we can make in the name of love.
Lola (Franka Potente) receives a call from her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), a drug courier. Because Lola's moped was stolen, Manni had to take the subway home -- and he accidentally left behind a bag of money. Now he has twenty minutes to somehow get 100,000 marks, or his boss Ronnie is going to kill him.
Lola races across Berlin to her father's bank -- only to find him with his mistress, and hear that he's leaving his other family. Desperate, she runs to where Manni is waiting, and helps him rob a convenience store. But as they flee, the police catch up to them -- and Lola is shot.
"But I don't want to. I don't want to leave," she mutters. And time rewinds to where she left her apartment -- and this time, Lola's determined to do things differently. As she runs from one end of Berlin to another, she sends ripples through the lives of those she passes -- and she'll keep running until she finds a hundred thousand marks to save herself and Manni.
"Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt)" was what propelled Tom Tykwer to international fame. And given that his other movies tend to be slower and more dreamlike -- though no less striking visually -- this movie is striking not only for its speed, but the sweet romance and the lesson about the old "butterfly's wings" adage. (Also see: "Happenstance")
Admittedly, a woman running through Berlin is not terribly interesting in itself. But the world of Lola is filled with brilliant rave colours -- Lola's blazing red hair, colourful room, the sights of Berlin -- and her race against the clock is punctuated by little vignettes of the future lives of various people she bumps into. That momentary contact is enough to change their lives -- sometimes for better, or worse.
And Tykwer's style is a spicy mix -- arty shots (going through a clock mouth or an apartment building?), German techno, cartoon interludes with an animated Lola running for it, Lola changing reality with her screeches, and the snapshots of people's futures, seen only for a second -- but very revealing. Not to mention the equally colourful, MTVesque cartoons of Lola running down stairs, evading dogs, et cetera.
But even aside from Tykwer's artistic flair, it's a great movie -- the atmosphere is painful and taut during the scenes in the bank, including Lola's robbery. And periodically, we see some sweet red-tinted interludes of Manni and Lola in bed, discussing their feelings for each other. They're little oases of calm and love, in the middle of all the running.
Franka Potente does a solid job as Lola, an ordinary punky girl who loves Manni more than anything, and must find the RIGHT way out of their shared dilemma. She gets some nasty surprises from her uptight, adulterous dad, though. And Bleibtreu does magnificently as Manni, who is overcome with fear, frustration and anguish because he knows that his boss is going to kill him.
"Run Lola Run" is a kinetic, vibrant, and a romantic little look at how a moment can change your life. Everything else is pure theory.