Run Lola Run
|Shooting period||June 1997 – July 1997|
|Production||X Filme Creative Pool with WDR and arte|
|Premiere||4 September 1998|
|Cinematic Release||20 August 1998|
|Intl. Distribution||Sony Classics|
35 mm, Cinemascope, Colour, 124 min.
|•||Bavarian Film Prize 1998|
|•||Official Competition Venice 1998|
|•||Bambi 1998 (Franka Potente, Newcomer)|
|•||International Critics' Prize 1998 (Association of German Critics)|
Jupiter ("Cinema"-Leserpreis 1998 – best film, best director,
best leading actress, best leading actor)
|•||German Film Critics' Prize1999|
|•||German Film Award Gold 1999 for best film|
|•||German Film Award 1999 for best director|
|•||German Film Award 1999 for best supporting actress (Nina Petri)|
|•||German Film Award 1999 for best supporting actor (Herbert Knaup)|
|•||German Film Award 1999 for best editor|
|•||German Film Award 1999 for best camera|
|•||Audience Award 1999 for "German Film of the Year"|
|•||Audience Award 1999 "Actress of the Year" Franka Potente|
|•||Grand Prix, Geneva Film Festival (Franka Potente)|
|•||Hongkong Critics Choice|
|•||Sundance Film Festival 1999, Audience Award|
|•||Most successful German Film 1998|
|•||Gold disc for Title Song „Wish“ (Franka Potente and Thomas D.)|
|•||Golden Space Needle Award for Best Picture (Seattle 1999)|
|•||Independent Spirit Award 2000|
by Peter Cowie.
“Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.”
Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman
This roller-coaster of a film established Tom Tykwer as one of the most exciting writer-directors at work in European cinema. In part its success is due to the charismatic personality of Franka Potente as Lola, but even more it’s the tremendous narrative verve of the film that grabs the spectator by the throat from start to finish. Tykwer tells us that the spur for the film was an image of a woman running, and from this developed the concept of reversing the normal format of a feature film. Some twenty minutes of action would be stretched out to fill four times that extent, instead of compressing a huge amount of story material into regular feature length.
So the flame-haired Lola must run not for her own life so much as for that of Manni, her boyfriend, who has lost a hundred thousand marks of drug money he was carrying for his vengeful boss. Lola fulfils three scenarios, each as hectic as the last, trying to force her banker dad to cough up the dough, while Manni pursues the tramp who’s grabbed the loot after Manni left it in a subway car. There’s a sub-plot involving Lola’s father and his mistress, and some marginal characters who are forcefully sketched. But the emotional heart of the film is a series of conversations between Lola and Manni as they lie in bed, viewed in close-up, from above and through a red filter that renders the dialogue more intimate, even secretive. The bond between them becomes more and more powerful and, as Tykwer notes, “Lola’s strength grows out of this passionate desire.” Like Cassavetes, Tykwer writes his scenes very precisely but films them in such a way as to give them the whiff of improvisation in real time.
Although Lola seems to cheat death and to transcend physical norms in terms of endurance (only about 5% of her “running” scenes made the final cut!), she possesses an emotional third dimension denied to comic-strip heroines like Wonder Woman or Lara Croft. It’s a dimension of tenderness, in someone who could be the girl next door, as down to earth as beer and potato salad. Franka Potente plunges wholeheartedly into her role, refusing to admit defeat, and standing up to her father with heated indignation. The camera never abandons her, even when she’s hurtling through the streets of Berlin, and with each close-up we seem to understand her a little better. Since the start of his career, Tykwer has been drawn to female characters. His women, like Bergman’s, are tougher and more resilient psychologically than their male partners.
Run Lola Run teems with invention. As Lola rushes past people in the street, Tykwer interjects hilarious, accelerated flashes forward into the lives of these characters. Each time she races out of her apartment, a neighbour watches a cartoon on the TV that features a girl just like Lola charging down the stairs in an endless spiral. The flashbacks showing the drug connection are filmed in grainy black-and-white, while – in a nod to Brian De Palma – Tykwer uses a split screen to heighten the suspense as Lola runs and Manni prepares to rob a store to get some cash. This mix of 35mm colour and monochrome film, video, and animation jells in part because of the audacious rubato imposed on their material by Tykwer and his editor Mathilde Bonnefoy.
The pacing is absolutely crucial in Run Lola Run. Visually, it’s accentuated by the recurring close-ups of a clock, as the minutes tick towards “high noon”, when Manni must hand the money over to his boss. More fundamentally, the soundtrack constantly reminds us of the need for speed, “like a heartbeat that never comes to rest,” to quote one lyric heard off-screen. Music was important in Wintersleepers, but here it becomes even more dominant, throbbing and pulsating with only a few charmed intervals of silence. These moments of stillness on the soundtrack leave the image naked and vulnerable, as when a bank clerk goes down to the vault to fetch more money while Lola guards her father with a stolen gun.
It’s all too easy to dismiss Tom Tykwer as a product of the MTV era. He may be talented as a composer (and in 2003 he contributed a song to The Matrix Revolutions), but he’s steeped in film history too. That painting of a woman hanging in the casino where Lola wins a fortune is a riff on Kim Novak’s Carlotta Valdes portrait in Vertigo. The group of impassive gamblers at the close of that same sequence are straight out of Village of the Damned, and Lola’s dashes forward into the very lens of the camera recall Raiders of the Lost Ark. Her high-pitched scream shatters glass and glasses with a brio reminiscent of little Oskar in The Tin Drum.
The darker themes that flow beneath the film’s surface have grown ever more vital in Tykwer’s cinema: coincidence as the arbiter of destiny; crime and its effect on essentially “innocent” individuals; time as an unforgiving concept, drawing its subjects back to the future. Tykwer uses a quote from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding at the outset of the film, and another line from the same poet sounds almost as apposite: “The journey not the arrival matters.”
Shot on a budget of just 2 million dollars, Run Lola Run proved a hit wherever it opened around the world. In North America is grossed more than 7 million dollars, making it at that time one of the top ten foreign-language films ever released Stateside. Critical reception was also rapturous, and Run Lola Run took the coveted Audience Award at Sundance in 1999 as well as picking up the Independent Spirit Award. The technical crew contains some of the most gifted names in German film – Frank Griebe behind the camera, Monika Jacobs designing costumes, Tilman Büttner (Russian Ark) on steadicam, Dirk Jacob as sound designer, Matthias Lampert as rerecording mixer, and many others. For sheer kinetic panache and good humour, Run Lola Run remains the most accessible and enjoyable of all Tykwer’s films to date.
Berlin. Now. A summer's day on which a very short space of time decides about love, life and death. Lola (Franka Potente) and Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) are lovers in their early twenties. Manni works as a money courier for a dodgy car dealer. But on this day, everything goes wrong: In his haste to try and dodge some ticket controllers on the underground, he leaves the plastic bag containing 100,000 marks on the train. A bummer (Joachim Król) snatches the bag with the money and disappears. In twenty minutes, Manni's boss (Heino Ferch) is coming to collect the money. In his desperation, Manni calls Lola. What should he do? If he doesn't get the money together, he's a dead man.
Lola's brain spins into overdrive: 20 minutes time to get 100,000 marks together. 20 minutes time to save Manni's life. Lola has an idea. She bombs out of the house and starts running through the streets of Berlin. Lola runs. For her life, for Manni's life, for their love - and to somehow, somewhere get the money.
While Lola tries to get the money from her father, a bank director (Herbert Knaup), Manni is losing control: In his desperation, the only solution he can think of, is to rob a supermarket. When Lola reaches Manni, it's too late. She hesitates, but then helps him with the robbery. Just as they are about to make off with the money, the sound of sirens screech through the summer skies. Police marksmen surround the supermarket. Shots are fired…
…and with the apparent end to the film, the actual adventure begins. The film explodes into a passionate, fascinating, unpredictable story about love and the unique moments which can change a life forever. Sometimes it is just minutes which decide over life and death.
With a pulsating, up-to-the-minute soundtrack, exciting, unusual visuals and a city pace, RUN LOLA RUN celebrates the triumph of love, which captures the breath-taking life feeling of the late nineties.
Norbert von Au
Suzanne von Borsody
Drehbuch / Regie|
Zus. Set Aufnahmeleitung
Script / Continuity
Kamera 2nd Unit
Kamera Assistenz 2nd Unit
Kamera Bühnen Assistenz
Aussperrung und Parkplätze
Flash Forward Fotoserien
Digital Special Effects
Senior Effects Supervisor
Digital Domino Effects
Domino Recording, Scanning Editing
Gudrun F. Widlok
Berliner Spezialeffekte, Gerd Voll
An Dorthe Braker
Dinner For Tour
Bloc. Inc. Filmservice
Achim, Bernhard, Christian Sarni,
Usch, Carsten, René, Robert Jörgen,
Die Potsdamer, Folker, Grete und Willi
Ruhr Sound Studios
Studio Film Bilder
Geyer Werke Berlin
Hans Joachim Rabs
Klaus Peter Schulze
Gebhard Henke, WDR
Andreas Schreitmüller, ARTE
Interview with Tom Tykwer
Where did you get the idea for RUN LOLA RUN?
I always come at things from a visual standpoint. There's an image in my head that I want to bring to life, to build a story around it and make a film out of it. With RUN LOLA RUN, it was a woman running, the side-on medium shot of a woman running. I think the idea of making a dynamic film is a basic desire among filmmakers. That's why we like to watch action films, because film can transport speed. Film has to do with dynamics, with explosiveness. A running human brings everything together: explosive dynamics and emotions, because in this movement, the human is highly expressive - whether it is desperation, joy or whatever. There is something fundamentally cinematic about the dynamic - like a laterna magica. There is also an element of childish enthusiasm for this most simple of all cinema images: a person in motion. WINTER SLEEPERS was a film with epic breath and heaviness. Run Lola Run was an act of liberation. It was a contrary model, not in terms of the content, but formally. Viewers travel with RUN LOLA RUN, are shaken about on its roller coaster ride. I wanted naked, pulsating pleasure, which despite its complexity was not like Winter Sleepers in any way. A wild chase with effect.
For all its dynamic, RUN LOLA RUN deals with philosophical questions - where do we come from, where are we going to - and at the same time, it's a portrait of a generation. Is our age living through a crisis of the senses?
If you give coincidence big chances, it shows that ideologies have no strength. Our age is not ruled by ideals. We look at what is going on today, and don't give much thought to what will happen tomorrow. There are no plans, which means that the moment becomes all the more important. The age of the economic miracle was characterised by reconstruction, by looking ahead. These days, we live in a more situational way.
How did you put the cast together?
Franka Potente was there from the beginning, although no-one could really imagine that because after 'It's a Jungle Out There' she had more of a girl next-door image. Franka can genuinely transport an element of normal middle-class life, which Lola has too - after all, her father is a bank director. But Lola's vibrating energy was already visible in Franka in 'It's a Jungle Out There'. It was a strength I wanted to see unfold. I wanted real characters who were immediately likeable and whose love was believable. With Franka and Moritz Bleibtreu you wish from the very beginning that they are a couple and that they stay a couple. They are made for one another. Moritz has an unbelievable presence and is immediately loveable - and he just can't be allowed to die! He doesn't pose, he is believable, chaotic and loveable.
Almost the entire who's who of the German cinema fraternity pops up in supporting roles: Heino Ferch, Joachim Król, Nina Petri, Herbert Knaup…
I enjoy working with actors and actresses I like. They're a part of my creative family. I enjoy having the same actors appear over and over in my films - sometimes in the lead role, sometimes in a supporting role. But there is a much more important reason: From the very beginning, RUN LOLA RUN emphasises that it is coincidental that Lola's story is being told. It is picked out of a crowd of people - and we could have told someone else's story, that of Mr Smith, Mrs Jones, Mr Walker…and we tell them too in little fragments. It was important to create a feeling for these people. Behind every character is not only their dramatic function, but a huge cosmos. Supporting characters are inherently restricted by the purpose they serve the lead role, but all the characters in RUN LOLA RUN were equally important to me - they were potential lead characters. I wanted to cast them like lead roles, even though roles such as that of Heino Ferch, were tiny.
You once said there are 'loved' and 'unloved' children. What is Lola?
Lola doesn't feel as though her parents love her, which is why Manni is her anchor, her love, her life. Her parents are locked in their own worlds, and there is no contact between Lola and them, just deep reserve. It's almost normal these days. My generation and the one before have huge parental problems, which is vastly different to the generation problem of the 68ers movement, mostly because they are emotional and less ideological. There is no intensity between the generations.
Deadly Maria, Winter Sleepers, and now RUN LOLA RUN. What place does RUN LOLA RUN take in your work?
Each of my three films are totally different, but I recognise myself in them over and again. Certain elements which interest me reappear repeatedly. Time, for example, and the manipulation of time. One of the most interesting things about film for me, is the principle of creating time. You can set a film over twenty minutes or twenty years. The best films have a personality without being private. Films have to have their own signature, and that is visible in all of my films. RUN LOLA RUN is a continual journey for me, and the most important thing is that the audience feels that Lola has really experienced the different possibilities that we show in the film. Not only the last twenty minutes. And that the audience goes with the emotion of the film and grows into the film feeling with Lola and wanting that at the end, she is rewarded for everything she has had to go through - Manni's death, her own death.
Is the screaming in the casino which shatters the glasses a conscious quote from Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum?
I neither thought about as I was writing nor shooting the film. Of course some people will make such connections, even though they were not intended as a conscious quote on my part. It is a minute irritation, and I don't think there is any monopoly on scenes like that. Although Oskar Matzerath from the Tin Drum is also a very wistful character, the statement is quite different. Nonetheless the character possesses immense strength which could create a connection to Lola. Lola's scream is a crazy, wild, hysterical expression of desperation and an attempt, to stand up to what seems like the greatest hopelessness and panic and to get things moving. An expression of strong will and yearning - which is why the title song is called 'I wish I was'.
How did the visual concept for RUN LOLA RUN look like?
There was a very exact storyboard for the film because there were so many tiny details to consider, such as where which characters should stand in which scenes, or how to make sure the camera only shot the really important things. In addition, we were telling a story which took place within a specific period of time all on one and the same day. That meant the weather and the light had to be identical. One mad factor was the clocks which appeared in all over the place. We spent hours discussing whether it should be six or seven minutes to 12 in scene X. Or even five to twelve? The continuity aspect certainly cost us overtime! The visual concept was of great importance during the preparatory phase already, and the script was written in a very technical way. Technology is a fundamental part of the film, but becomes organically integrated and invisible. The aim was that the whole structure would be forgotten, taken over by the driving wish to see Lola save Manni's life.
The music played a large part in RUN LOLA RUN. You created it with two other musicians…
Just as with Winter Sleepers, I worked with Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil on the film music. The idea that anyone but myself should compose the music for one of my films, is a nightmare. It's definitely possible to ruin a film with the wrong music. Music can turn a good film into a really good film and can make a not so good film into a bad one. Music strengthens everything. Try and imagine "Once upon a Time in the West" without music! Music and image - that is film. I think, write and edit in a very musical way, so it is only natural that I should take care of the soundtrack.
And apart from all that, it is fun, and not easy to find the "right" film composer, a composer who shares the director's vision. I had piano lessons until I was 18 years old, so I pre-compose melodies on the piano, then Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil and I have a basis session. Klimek has more of a techno background, Heil was a keyboard player and one of the main composers with Spliff. That means we have a mix of jazz, current music, 80s pop music, and my classical and film music it's an interesting fusion. I didn't want to set the film to standard techno music. I made my first pop record, a real dance record in the soundtrack to RUN LOLA RUN.
What was the greatest challenge in this precisely constructed film?
In the edit, the timing was crucial, because the film is very fast and you need time and have to give the viewers time to organise what they see in their heads. In terms of creativity the greatest challenge was to prevent the time leaps from seeming like breaks, but making them flow seamlessly into one another thus keeping a constant level of emotion among the viewers. The space-time continuum is turned upside down without anyone really noticing it. But to achieve this, it was important that the driving, breathtaking element didn't get lost or become an end to itself. So, visually speaking, we followed a logical path, and gave each level its own look. The sequences with Lola and Manni are shot on 35mm, and the others, where Lola and Manni are not on location were shot on video, in an almost synthetic, artificial world. It turns Manni and Lola into the centre of their world, in which cinematic miracles are possible. The cinema image is true, the others are almost untrue. When Lola runs through a video image, it becomes film.
Is RUN LOLA RUN a Berlin film?
Yes, of course, but unlike 'Life is All You Get', the script to which I also worked on, it showed a realistic, dying Berlin in the throes of change, still in the wake of the fall of the wall. RUN LOLA RUN shows a different Berlin, a Berlin which doesn't isolate the Gedächtniskirche and throw Alexanderplatz in for good measure, but a city in an exciting synthetic state between the modern and the demolished. No city is as synthetic and lively as Berlin with its huge, grey streets, ghostly, almost studio like atmosphere void of greenery and people. Here you can simultaneously feel emptiness and a sense of being surrounded by a huge metropolis. RUN LOLA RUN works to the Pippi Longstocking motive "I make my world, the way I like it." The pavements are empty, the streets are emptied for Lola, for what is important in her life at that moment.
What is the meaning of the animation sequences?
When we were thinking about how to make a film about the possibilities of life, it was quite clear to me that it would also have to be a film about the possibilities of cinema. That's why there is black and white, colour, video, slow motion, time lapse and animation. It is also about the freedom of the medium. These days, filmmakers can juggle with every mediums because nothing is isolated anymore. The times in which you could only listen to music on a record player, could only watch the news on television, borrow a book from the library or see a film in the cinema, are over. Through interactive media and the Internet, everything can now happen on a monitor, and it makes us experience the world in another way, and that can be shown in film. The animation is a maximised way of showing that anything goes. It is only the imagination which sets the boundaries. Structurally speaking, the animation in the film is always the starting point for all domino principle type of changes in the causal chain.
So is RUN LOLA RUN a very new film?
Only from the outside. The means don't change the way of telling the story. It continues to work according to the structural principles, which were the mainstay of classicists. RUN LOLA RUN is no different. We have passionate love, we have a clear action principle, we have a task which runs throughout the film. RUN LOLA RUN works in the same way as the search for the Holy Grail. Only in this case, the grail is worth 100,000 Marks.
Not many directors dare to work on the music to their own films, but Tom Tykwer does. He teamed up with musicians Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil (see also: THE MUSICIANS) to produce the soundtrack to RUN LOLA RUN. As with Tykwer's Winter Sleepers, the score for which he also created with Heil and Klimek, the music for RUN LOLA RUN is a unique mix of the three musicians' different styles - New German Wave, classical film music and a lot of techno.
The extraordinary music is further enhanced by an extraordinary voice: Lola actress Franka Potente made her debut as a singer on the soundtrack. In listening to the results, it is clear that she enjoyed what she was doing. She murmurs, whispers and breathes life into the dark, beat-laden tones. Her singing makes her secretive and mysterious.
Through the songs, the film structure finds its acoustic counterpart. In their multi-facetted variations, the songs set to The First Run, The Second Run and The Third Run underscore the development and changes of the heroine. High pitched, feverish acid tones and 80s sounds whip the First Run into a wild finale. The Second Run is characterised by exhilarated singing, elaborate Drum'n'Bass rhythms and rouses associations with the Underworld hit 'Born Slippy' from the film 'Trainspotting'. The Third Run on the other hand, is an electronic pop piece with breakbeat influence, which Franka Potente's voice makes both eerie and sexy at one and the same time.
The other pieces on the soundtrack are a brilliant fusion of intoxicating dance tracks, which transform the tempo of the film into a rush of speed. In 'A supermarket', the sound of trance techno, spills into a bass drum to sound like a speeded-up heartbeat. 'Escape from the Bank' is hip Detroit techno, which accompanies the images with a minimalist and serious pulsing line.
The soundtrack to RUN LOLA RUN is almost like another film. It conjures up fast images from a fast life in Berlin, the vision of a breathless chase, and the feeling of life at the end of the nineties. It is right in keeping with director Tom Tykwer's understanding of what makes film music: "music and images equals film."
The Magazine Of Independent Film, Spring 1999
Issue #27, Vol. 7, #3,
Timeout, New York
June 1999, Issue #195
New York Times
June 13, 1999
Bild am Sonntag