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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> August 1999 >> Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Dates on Record:
August 1999, September 1999, February 2000, November 2000
IMDB Name:
Run Lola Run (1999)
Tom Tykwer
action, foreign-language, suspense
MPAA Rating:
R for some violence and language.

Move E

I could look up all of the synonyms in the thesaurus for kinetic, but it still wouldn't do justice to Run Lola Run. This movie moves so fast that the title doesn't have time for commas! I don't think I've ever seen a movie that moves like this. Already a short story, shorter ones are mixed in, compressing lifetimes into a series of frames that goes by just on the edge of the audience's ability to perceive the stills. Between the camera work, the star, and the music, it's impossible to resist dancing.

The movie wisely takes a few brief pauses from the action. These serve a very clever dual purpose. It gives the audience a rest from all the excitement. Having just reached the end of another zippy plot arc, you need a moment to recover! Perhaps more importantly, it allows some time to better establish the two primary characters and their relationship. Within minutes, I really wanted Lola to succeed. I made an emotional investment that most movies don't get from me.


You could think of this as Sliding Doors on speed, but it's better than that. Manni and Lola have already been together a year when the movie story starts, so we can skip most of the staples of romance movies. We are left with the indomitable spirit of a woman who needs to produce 100,000 marks in very short order, and the frustrations of the man for whom she needs it. The movie deftly shows three outcomes for the premise, although it makes no attempts to interleave them. If anything, this is probably less confusing than Sliding Doors.

Potent Potente

Franka Potente is quite a presence. She runs, as you might imagine, and she dominates the screen whenever she does. It's not so much a matter of area as of visibility. Her look always invites a closer examination, even when she's just a comparative speck on the screen. Her outfit of green pants, grey shirt, and red hair is easy to pick up. Oh, that hair! It's hard to imagine a red more saturated than this. It's fire symbolizes the powerful mix of love, exasperation, and urgency that drives the character. Fortunately, Potente can act to match her appearance. Her rapid transitions from fear to anger to sadness are flawless. Oh, and I love those shrieks.

Cryptic Camera

Great care is taken to move the camera expressively. I particularly enjoyed shots that started high above and dropped straight down as Lola ran towards the camera. There were also some nifty overhead shots, my favorite being a roulette wheel that was relatively stable in the frame while still spinning. I can't imagine the rig they used for that one! With the luxury of having the DVD, I can now also see the shots where the camera chases the ball around. This is some ingenious technique, and all on a movie with a mere DEM 3,500,000 budget!

Interestingly, the movie switches to animation for a sequence each of the three times. Amazing though it would've been to have the camera race ahead of Lola as she charges down the spiral stairs in her building, the acknowledgment of that impossibility, and the possibilities opened up by animating the sequence instead, are interesting. The transition through the television to the stairs is also nice.


When Lola scans the intersection where she is to meet Manni at the very end, the supermarket is very clearly closed. They don't explicitly explain this discrepancy, but on the commentary track, the director mentions that the scene was shot early on a Sunday morning. That cut down on the traffic hassles, but introduced a minor continuity flaw. If anything, the supermarket being closed enhances the ghost town atmosphere of the scene, so it's a minor quibble.

DVD Comments

"If you call someone who speaks three languages trilingual, and you call somebody who speaks two languages bilingual, what do you call someone who speaks one language?"
"An American."

The DVD for Run Lola Run features an excellent commentary track with Franka Potente and director Tom Tykwer. Both are so fluent in English that it's as though they'd lived in America for a while. I would love to know, are there any American directors that could do the same for foreign dubs of their films? Oddly, neither German release of the movie on DVD seems to have a commentary at all, although one had interviews with Potente, Tykwer, and Moritz Bleibtreu.

Speaking of languages, the American DVD includes 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks of the original German and 5.1 and 2.0 audio tracks of an English dub. I've listened to the entirety of the English overdub, and I didn't like the voices at all. For starters, the text is oddly butchered to more closely jibe with the lips of the on-screen cast members. Worse, the new voices don't convey the same emotions as the originals, and are often not as distinguishable as they should be. I had trouble telling Papa and the bank guard apart. Subtitles are available in English and French, but not German. I am always disappointed by the absence of same-language subtitles, even if they're purely educational.

It strikes me as terrifically ironic that a movie with as much action and motion as Run Lola Run would end up with such static DVD menus, but such is life. My one immediate quibble with the disc is the scene selector, which requires paging through screens of four scenes each. There are twenty-eight chapters, so it can take a while to get where you want. More annoyingly, the default control is to go to the next screen. This is usually a feature because statistically speaking, you want a scene that's not in the current list. When you're trying to go backwards, though, you must repeat the movement to the "previous" control on every screen.

There is also a music video on the disc, but instead of being made into its own title, it's just another menu item. This breaks several interface mechanisms while it's playing, including the menu button. The only way to abort the video is to stop the disc and start over! This is a ludicrously user- hostile thing to do, and an ugly blemish on the disc.

See the IMDB information on Run Lola Run's DVD.

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Copyright 1999-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.