Run Lola Run (1999)

run lola run

“Love can do anything.”

The Scoop: 1999 R, directed by Tom Tykwer, and starring Franka Potente and Moritz Bleibtreu

Tagline: Every second of every day you’re faced with a decision that can change your life.

Summary Capsule: German punk runs to save her boyfriend’s life.

Justin’s rating: LOOKING FOR: SWF, 25, blazing red hair, screams often, will do anything for love.

Justin’s review: So I’m sitting in a 1970s-style theater and realizing: “Hey, I’m viewing a foreign film. What the heck is wrong with me? Have I become one of those artsy-fartsy dorks that reject anything without subtitles?” Fortunately, nay was the answer. I was here to see Run Lola Run, a film that turned out to be one of the best summer movies of 1999 that I’ve seen.

Our heroine, a spunky redheaded German punkette, is given a horrific deadline: her boyfriend lost 100,000 marks, and if she doesn’t bring him that amount within 20 minutes, a mobster will kill him. I haven’t seen a film with this much juice since Speed, and the slow beginnings of both films give me the feeling of being pulled back on a catepult before being shot forward at top speed.

Run Lola Run takes the basest of emotions and rises them to the surface. Love and death are the Yin-Yang that propels Lola to run in desperation. We see her crying in anxiety, shrieking when situations run out of control, and spinning plans on the fly. If you think you can watch this film from a distance, you are in for a booster. I instantly cared for Lola, empathizing with her situation, and feeling adrenaline surge through my veins when she bursts through her apartment door to save the man she loves. It’s not unlike a sports movie, where you cheer on the underdog team; but here we are faced with a world that grinds against Lola and her boyfriend, Manni. She is non-conformity, a bright red streak summoning primordial forces to accomplish her goals.

The other much-touted hook for this film is that we are presented with three different versions of Lola’s quest. Small changes in her decisions (from dodging an apartment bully to bumping into a woman wheeling a cart) affect the large scheme, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It’s a time-travel plot akin to a video game; restore your game when you die. But the setup doesn’t feel contrived… we have already accepted a certain level of surrealism that binds this film together.

As with many independent projects, Run Lola Run utilizes some ingenious storytelling camera sequences. Some scenes are out of focus and vague (see Intermission below). The opening credits and Lola running down her apartment stairs are done in cartoon (which I found particularly appealing; it gives an instant energetic push). When she encounters certain people, their lives are told through a quick series of photographs that change in each time sequence. Whether subtitles bother you or not, this film is not much of a concern, since most of the action takes place without a word spoken.

At the heart of this movie is Lola running. She is gorgeous in a very real sort of way (nixing Hollywood big bosom blonde stereotypes), and I found myself captivated more than once by her eyes. She is full of an endless reservoir of energy: running, jumping, dodging, fighting. One of my favorite camera tricks they used was splitting the screen between her running and someone else doing something (and also a clock – the running symbol – on the bottom of the screen). You get great contrast between her speed and the relatively still world that holds great import to her story. The soundtrack (I haven’t mentioned the soundtrack until this paragraph? Shame on me!) is purely techno, a pulse-pounding collection of songs that enhance the urgency of every scene, running or not.

The only major critique I’ve read about Run Lola Run was its lack of a deep plot; this is a moot point, ladies and gentlemen. This film is not set up to be an art piece where people jabber on for hours and hours about Seinfeldian topics; it’s a brutal, base piece that is designed to pull us in to run along side of Lola and thrill in life’s peculiar twists (fate for some, predestination for others). This was the #1 German film in 1998; and now I think it’s time that we all forego Will Smith and CGI podraces for something a bit more… intense.

Toni’s rating: Rent ‘Lola Rennt’ (Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself.)

Toni’s review: I’d like to take this sentence to thank Justin for reviewing Run Lola Run because, honestly, I never would have watched it otherwise. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t go for subtitles unless little Italian guys get Oscars or animated people with really big eyes speak Japanese. Yeah yeah, I’m a cultural strip mine, bite me. I won’t eat sushi either.


Run Lola Run was just cool! Cool plot, cool filming concepts, cool characters, cool actors, cool music, cool babe with bright hair. I know that lacks vocabulary but the whole movie just gave me this aura of ‘cool’. The basic story follows a ‘beat the clock’ idea that you’ve seen a few times before, I’m sure. Nick of Time springs to mind, as does any movie in which the hero has X time period to disarm the bomb/find the virus/save the plane before it runs out of fuel/et cetera. But Run Lola Run rises above that sort of big budget shlept and stands on a level you don’t find too often. What level, you ask? Small scale. Say it with me now, small scale. I can’t tell you how tired I am of seeing buff rugged men saving bus-fulls, plane-fulls, town-fulls and even world-fulls of people just because they are the Hero™. No one really does that! No one! Arrgh!

To contrast, Lola centers around only two fairly believable people. Lola and Manni. That’s it. Lola has 20 minutes to replace 100 000 marks that Manni lost and run run to the Spiral Bar before he gets desperate and robs it. See, Manni needs the money before the big mean crime boss owner guy comes and wastes him for losing it. And that’s the story. Isn’t it simple? And that’s just the thing! That simplicity allows for all the nifty story telling methods they use. For instance, Lola’s jaunt is told three times in a row and when one ends badly, they cut to a flashback of her an Manni having a conversation in bed and then they start all over again. It’s like a giant rewind button on the Remote Control of the Universe. My other favorite would have to be the ‘And Then’ photographic biographies we get for some of the people Lola runs into. Every encounter with her changes that person’s path just a little bit, but that moment causes a chain reaction through out the rest of their life. It’s like the Chaos Theory and how a butterfly flapping it’s wings in Africa can make me trip on an icy sidewalk. Or something. You’ve all seen the Jurassic Park water drop on the hand trick, right?

What have I missed. I’m not telling you any more of the story because it’s too good to ruin so I have to think of something else to point out. Like the animated bits, take special note of those. And the music rocked if you like techno, it was expertly suited to the scenes. Oh! Yeah, and Franka Potente (Lola) was excellent and I have to agree with Justin in that she’s beautiful in a very real way. Like a screaming earth goddess topped with fire.

I need to get out more.

PoolMan’s rating: The clock is ticking, and all I have are these green pants!

PoolMan’s review: I would also like to pass on a quick danka schoen to Justin for bringing Run Lola Run to my attention. I wouldn’t have heard of it if not for him, and that would have been a tragedy. (I love you, Justin!)

Now, seeing as for once Justin hasn’t relied on his trusty sidekick PoolMan to rehash, reheat, and reserve the plot, I thought I’d try a different aspect to reviewing Run Lola Run (and see if I can get it in under 10 pages). That’s right, I’m a man, and I’m going to talk about how this movie made me feel.

Let me start by saying Lola kept breaking my heart. You’ve got a young, vibrant woman who obviously wants nothing more out of life than love, freely given, freely accepted. And not just with Manni. She cries when her father yells at her. She is constantly sorry for the people around her, even those she only just brushes by momentarily. There’s such hope in the girl, and to see it dashed again and again (courtesy of the rewinding action of the movie) as she tries valiantly to save the man she cares for, well, it truly draws you in and makes you care. How often does that happen with your standard Hollywood fare these days?

But when the going gets tough, Lola gets tougher. She puts away the sensitive little girl when it counts, and brings out a stronger, fiercer personality, one capable of commiting crimes and overcoming any obstacle to achieve her nobler goals. Actually, it’s very remarkable to note that even in the timelines where things don’t work out, it’s never because of Lola’s lack of effort, it’s because of something happening in the very busy environment around her.

Also, the calm, the very serene, intense looks she uses are wholly engrossing. There are several points where she doesn’t use words to explain her outrageous behavior, she simply looks at someone, and they suddenly understand, even if they don’t know how. This gives Lola some downright mystical properties, thus making her another shade deeper.

To move on, the speed of RLR is amazing. This film moves like it’s alive. It knows when to speed up, when to slow down, and when to hit its absolute maximums and minimums. This is an exhilarating feeling to be sure, and there’s a few moments where you feel every bit as drained as our red headed protagonist. The pacing is, in a word, perfect.

I want to put in a word from my significant other, too. She has convinced me that subtitles are the way to go with movies, and I’m starting to think she’s right. In a dub, you lose the original strains, emphases, and nuances of the recorded dialog. Now, that’s not to say the new rendition is bad, it’s just not what was originally taken to the audience. This goes for Life is Beautiful, and the Postman, too. Having said that, I know for a fact that subtitles are not an exact translation of the original lines, but you get the gist both from the text and the emphasis of the characters onscreen. Don’t settle for uneven English, listen to the original language, and let it sweep you up like it does me.

Straying back towards the meat of the movie, I was taken in again and again by the powerful use of its characters, and how the same person can be likeable in one timeline, and a jerk in another, but still the same character. In particular, Papa’s way of dealing with the news of an unexpected child differs from take to take, dependant on how long it takes Lola to get to him and interrupt the conversation. Amazing. This expands your view of his character tenfold, because you feel like you trust his reaction one time, and suddenly can’t understand it the next. This is expanded on with the series of still shots which almost subconsciously tells the stories of the people in the background, and the way that even these stories change is fascinating. (PoolMan’s hint: when you hear the sound of a camera flash warming up, get closer to your TV and pay very close attention).

The one, lonely, single gripe I have with RLR is that I am not an overly “techno” person. That being said, the music in the background is not bad in any sense. It was pretty cool. But there were seriously times where I could have used a little break from the computer generated music and switched to something a little more live. But if you ARE into the alternative techno scene, you will likely be dancing around like my girlfriend (who was just in heaven, she loves that kind of music).

Run Lola Run should not be seen once, and it should not be seen twice. It should be brought out and viewed again and again, every so often, simply because of two things: it will always have something new for you in every viewing, and because it really, really deserves it. An outstanding film in every aspect of the word. Please go see Lola Rennt. You’ll love us for it, and Mutants love to be loved.

(Note to self: when you claim you’re going to write a short review, do so. D’oh!)

Special Note: There’s a lot of love being thrown around in these reviews, some directed toward the Head Mutant. Just for the record, we are not turning into Care Bears. Rest easy.


  • The end credits scroll backwards, with ENDE going from right to left
  • Lola’s tattoos
  • Lola seems to remember events that took place in prevous time sequences
  • How much jewelery that girl’s wearing on her hands
  • They subtitle “blah blah blah”
  • The sounds at the beginning of the film (the clock and going in the clock’s mouth) are like a rollercoaster topping a hill
  • The number Lola bets on at the roulette table is the same amount of minutes she has to save her boyfriend — 20
  • In the two bed conversations, Manni’s and Lola’s arms exchange positions.
  • The two sentences at the opening (“The ball is round” and “The game lasts 90 minutes”) are famous quotes by German soccer coaching legend Sepp Herberger.
  • From the Lola FAQ, here’s an explanation why some scenes look more realistically shot than others: The sequences like Lola’s father and his mistress or the bum and the cyclist at the kiosk appear less real than the story of Lola and Manni. Since the whole film is about chances and probabilities, you could say that the answer to the question whether the incidences that are not directly connected to Lola and Manni actually happen the way they do in the film is even more uncertain. This is why these sequences appear so unreal in the film (because of the video images). Only the story line of Lola and Manni and everything that immediately influences them (eg Herr Meyer, who cannot meet Lola’s father because of the accident) is filmed on “real” film because it is the most probable, as it were.

Groovy Quotes

Lola: Love can do anything.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
– T. S. Eliot “Little Gidding”

Lola: Stop.

Manni: So what’s in the bag?

If you liked this movie, try these:


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