Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Tom Tykwer
Stars: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup
(Published in C.G. Jung Library Journal, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1999)
From post-postmodern Germany comes a film that gives a girl the role of Hero, the special one born with the power to prevail against the collective odds. Lola (Franka Potente), despite her punked-up hair and striking looks, is Everygirl, an ordinary young woman of today, whose mother thinks she’s going out on an errand when she’s really running for her life. This Hero, as if in a fairy tale reinvented, has a daddy who betrays her, is weaker than he looks, and turns out to be irrelevant to her problems. At best, he can’t protect her; at worst, he won’t. But the girl still manages — through her persistence and surprising good fortune — to escape the limitations of the disempowered daughter role and score a victory for the feminine.
Lola is a Hero waiting to happen. Fate interferes with her picking up her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bleibtrue), after he pulls off a drug deal in Berlin and that misstep sets off a series of events in which Lola has to tap into an amazing ability to reconfigure consequences. Manni, calling from a telephone booth, reaches her at home on her red phone, and, after blaming her for the predicament he is in, pleads with her to come up with a way to save his life — in twenty minutes. Hapless fellow, he has lost the big bag of cash that belongs to mob bosses who are already on the way to pick it up. They will kill him if he doesn’t have their money.
As if held back only by imagination, Lola transforms herself into an animated cartoon. The sheer challenge of the impossible energizes Lola into using magical powers to rescue the Manni she loves. Her hair is dyed bright red as if to signal her affinity to the troupe of wild women who roamed the hippie San Francisco of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb’s fantasies in the sixties. As Lola slides into action mode on the brink of the millennium, she stretches seconds beyond minutes, banishes the past before it becomes memory, and flips the future back into the present so that she, not time, will be in charge of the outcome.
With a wondrous autonomy, Lola revisits her boyfriend’s crisis three times as if learning from her mistakes, each time increasing her focus and decreasing the constriction of circumstance. Her progressive return to the choice-points of the rescue scenario structures the three segments of the movie: in each segment she gets better at releasing herself from her parental legacy and takes on more creative responsibility for shaping the outcome. In the first episode, Lola is revealed as the daughter of a highly placed banker who could rescue her but instead viciously rejects her. In the second episode, Lola turns the tables on her father and manages to save herself but loses what means the most to her. As she repeats the same flurry of activity attempting to wrest enough money from the “world of the fathers” to avoid disaster, her internal interpretation of events shifts and so do the events themselves. Finally, Lola relies on herself, backs up her date with fate by tampering awesomely with the inevitable and walks away with a new future.
As Lola proceeds though her three scenarios and bumps into the same people one after another on her sprint through the city of Berlin, flashes of images appear on her mind’s screen like 15-second commercials, advertising the way her life is changing. Lola’s internal images align with the different external scenarios and envisioning styles. Imagination strongly figures into how things turn out for Lola, who is like an Imaginal Hero.
There’s a wonderful scene that repeats itself in each of the three episodes. A group of people carrying a huge piece of clear glass is walking right in front of an ambulance that is racing to save a man’s life. In the second episode, the ambulance crashes through the invisible barrier posed by the glass. Once this shield of time and space has been broken, the patriarchal order can’t be put back together again, and the movie shifts decidedly in another direction. In a redemptive, Buddhist way, reality becomes what Lola makes of it through her conscientious mindfulness. This insight is the boon this feminine Hero brings back from her challenge to the odds against a victory for compassion.
If I were a girl, I would like to be told “Run Lola Run” over and over again. Every night when I went to bed I would ask for the Lola story. Tykwer’s film makes me feel like it is okay to be Lola, spinning her red telephone in the air, warping time and slipping from one reality to another like an animated cartoon hero. “Tell me the part about what she did to the phone again,” I would like to beg of the freestyling storyteller.
Forget Clever Gretel who saves her brother through trickery, forget Snow White who, though fairest-of-them-all, doesn’t know a witch when she sees one, and forget that persona-struck Cinderella who goes for a guy who can’t recognize her in street clothes. I want the colorful Lola, who leaps into action when her boyfriend is in trouble, keeps her wits about her when time is running out, and manipulates her perspective like a kid with a computer game. I would insist. If I am to grow up and be comfortable on city streets, I want flaming red hair (not a short red cape) to mark my coming of age, and I want the death-defying, life-affirming ending that any decent Hero gets. I need a fairy tale where the girl is unique, triumphs over evil, and inspires hope.
Miraculously, Lola’s race against the odds is also winning at the box office.Run Lola Run has gotten a better run for its money than most independently produced foreign films: in many cities, its time on the big screen has been extended. Wherever you live, beg for this movie – insist upon it. When you see Lola go for the big bag of fairy dust, you’ll enjoy being with her, and believe again in the possibility of change.