Andy's Anachronisms
Time Travel Film Reviews
Run Lola Run (1998)
"Jeden Tag, jede Sekunde triffst Du eine Entscheidung, die Dein Leben verändern kann"
"Each day, each second you make a decision, which can change your life" [English Translation]

Directed by Tom Tykwer


Lola receives a call from her frantic hoodlum boyfriend Manni who has misplaced a 100,000 German marks he is scheduled to turn over to his gangster boss in 20 minutes.

Lola says she can help, and urges him to wait until she gets there. Out of desperation and fear, Manni threatens to hold up a local grocery store if Lola is not there in time.

This sets in motion a wild race against the clock not only for Lola to find a 100,000 marks, but to also reach Manni in time. The race gets played out not once, but three times as we are treated to three different outcomes based on only slightly different turn of events in the intervening 20 minutes.


Run Lola Run was the top grossing German film of 1998 and has been opening to rave reviews world-wide. A film and story that truly transcends language and culture, its a film that virtually anyone can relate to.

Tom Tykwer takes a simple action driven plot and turns it into something magical to behold. Not content to simply show us his three alternate universes of Lola and Manni's life, Tykwer takes the viewer on an adrenaline filled ride that incorporates film, animation, still photos and a great techno soundtrack. While feeling like a music video at times, Tykwer successfully manages to strike amazing balance between the need for panic driven action and introspective discussion on the nature of fate versus chance.

The film does a brilliant job at underscoring how minor decisions made in everyday life can lead to very different results. In addition to the varying decisions Lola and Manni between the three versions of the story we also see the fates of a number of innocent bystanders. Lola quite literally bumps into some of these characters whose "fate" we see in a rapid series of still shots. With the subsequent telling of the story, the contrast between the various fates of these secondary characters range from hilarious to tragic.

In a movie where the logical temptation would be to recycle footage common to the three versions, it would appear Tykwer purposefully avoided such a shortcut. If anything the opposite appears to be true. Despite a running time of only 85 minutes, Tykwer's manages to pack into this time a fascinating amount of visual imagery which must have taken an disproportionately long time to create. For example scenes involving the characters lives told through still photos must have been taken days to create when in the end it was seconds of screen time.

Another scene which underscores the thought and energy that Tykwer put into telling this story occurs towards the end of each episode when Lola runs across a public square. The tiling of the square is a series of rectangular patters, much like a large grid. In the first episode, Lola is seen from above running diagonally across the squares of the grid. In the second version, Lola is seen again from above running straight along one of the grid lines. In the final version the camera is level with Lola as she runs across the square. Inconsequential to the telling of the story, but visually subtle enough to make an interesting contrast between the three versions.

A fascinating examination of "What If..." on a personal level, I highly recommend it. You may also want to check out the official site for the film which has some interesting comments by the director Tom Tykwer.

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