Jaynes Your Way

Here are my thoughts about films, life, and what not. If you don't like them I'll give your money back.

#8 What's in the bag?

14 September, 2008

Run Lola Run 1998

Many times a day I think to my self “ If only I had done ______.” I know--really hope-- that I am not the only one constantly questioning their actions. Movies tend to deal with “what if” plots because cinema can allow a glimpse at the possibilities of that answer through editing and other temporal distortions. “Back to the Future”, “Sliding Doors”, “Rashomon”, “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” to name a few. The cause and effect of our choices is similar to a binary search tree (to borrow a computer science term). Decision A leads to consequence B or C that has a two sets of possible events that weren’t available if we hadn’t made choice A. This structure is reductive, of course, but there is comfort in being able to narrow the course of your life to a single moment. “Two roads diverge in a yellow wood.”

“Run Lola Run” is a remarkable example of the seemingly subtle choices characters make effecting the rest of the narrative. It seems that Tom Tywker, the director and writer, couldn’t decide which story line he wanted to make make. Instead of deciding he, as the all powerful author, presents us three “what ifs” of the same situation, all with different endings.

In the beginning Lola receives a phone call from her boyfriend who casualy, at first, mentions he lost a bag filled with 100,000 marks. We see, through parallel editing, that bag, which is left on a subway car bench, is picked up by a homeless man( It really looks like that Geico Caveman makes a came.) The money isn’t his, but mobsters-- and mobsters never like to lose money they have rightfully stolen. Lola has 20 minutes to find a solution to legally attain the large amount of money before her boyfriend robs a grocery store to appease the mobsters. She literally runs to her father, a banker, and pleads for the money. He doesn’t give her the money and Lola doesn’t arrive in time to stop the robbery, which leads to her being shot by policemen responding to the robbery. Wait. What if she didn’t______. Rewind, start over try again. And we do. The same plot, sort of. There are subtle difference in the beginning that seem to snowball into larger effects as the second telling wears on. There is a little more hope that Lola will succeed this time, but events still conspire to kill someone. Game over. Go directly to Jail. Insert quarter for one more life to play. Go.

The third act, or telling, reveals the complexity of timing in movies and life. The same characters we see in the first two version are still in the second one and the hold ups that stopped them are removed and we see the difference it makes. Each interaction with Lola invokes a different reaction from them and a quick montage of what happens to them next. The final version is surprisingly complex, and more suspenseful even though we know what will generally happen. Watching this third take reminded me of Jeff Goldbloom in Jurassic Park. Ian Malcolm tries to describe Chaos Theory. He uses the a water drop on Dr. Sattler’s hand. He drops the water twice wielding two completely different results. Basically if we try an experiment, story, test --even with the same variables-- we’re going to have different results. “Back to the Future” sort of touched on this idea because Marty could never restore history or his life to the way the were pre-Flux Capacitor.

As the plot continues during narrative films the audience is given certain cues that leads us to a plausible ending. Audiences feel that these clues are contracts between them and the director, but sometimes this contract is broken and you hear moans about surprise endings or not-ending endings. Should there be a neat wrap up, or would audiences be content if something unexpected happened? More than likely they wouldn’t be, which is what you hear bemoans of predictable endings. “Run Lola Run” shows how you can manipulate certain story details to achieve the desired ending. So does endings reflect the desire of the director, or his belief of what the audience wants/needs/demands?

I have to mention the frenetic moving of the people and camera in this film. The film title suggests running, and Lola runs for most of the movie. The camera fluidly moves with her in a vain attempt to frame her in a traditional shot. When there is to much going on or people running towards each-other Tykwer utilizes a split screen, which, in the case, is really effective. I don’t like this term: “MTV style editing” because it adds a connotation of being unartistic-- sorry Lauren, Heidi, Whitney and Audrina. Yes the editing is fast and set to bumping techno, but it is also very artistic and stylized. It’s not fast for the sake of being fast.

If I was writing this as a review for the paper I would say something like, "Run out and get this movie," but I'll leave that decision up to you. You can run, walk, or drive.


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