Viking Night: Run Lola Run
By Bruce Hall
April 7, 2010
There are many reasons that certain films achieve what we call "cult" status, but one of them is that they tend to deliver their message in subversive or controversial ways that don't appeal to everyone. While it's true that most people do not like to work for their entertainment, is it possible that even the most unusual films can have something to offer everyone? When I was in college, a group of friends and I would meet regularly to ponder this very question. Beginning with Erik the Viking, we gathered once a week to watch and discuss a different cult classic, but we decided to keep the Viking theme. Now, I'll be working without a turkey leg or a goblet of mead, but with each installment of Viking Night I still seek to examine the same question: Can a film with such limited appeal still speak to us all?
In an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the crew of the Enterprise finds themselves trapped in a "time loop" that sees them repeating the same two weeks without their knowledge. Each time the loop was replayed, members of the crew began to slowly piece together events from past repetitions and learn from mistakes they'd made. Eventually, of course, our heroes managed to solve the conundrum and save themselves, just in time for the last commercial.
Much was made of the benefit one could theoretically derive from having the opportunity to replay a troubling portion of their life again and again, until they'd learned enough to get it right. The always wise Captain Picard reminded his crew that life does not give us any such luxury; we're given the time we are given, we make the choices we make and we must live with the consequences. But the suggestion was that personal will, not fate, dictates the course of our lives and gives each of us the chance to take control of our destiny. This of course is not a new idea in literature or cinema, but I brought up this example for a reason. While the movie we'll look at this week is not science fiction, it has been analyzed many times by many capable voices in the twelve years since its release. And while I don't anticipate I'll add much of anything new to the discussion I just wanted to be one of the relatively few who can say that the first time they saw Run Lola Run, they immediately thought of that one Star Trek episode in particular.
Released in 1998 by German wunderkind Tom Tykwer, Run Lola Run is more commonly compared to films such as Sliding Doors, Groundhog Day, or – bonus points if you've seen it – Blind Chance. But while it does toy with the space-time continuum in a similar way, Lola is far less demure than Sliding Doors, less cute than Groundhog Day, and less esoteric than Blind Chance. And having been crafted at the tail end of the music video age, Run Lola Run tackles similar issues as these other films, but in an entirely unique way. But despite its novelty, Tykwer's stylish sensory assault contains far more nuance, depth and character than may be immediately evident to the casual viewer.
Just as I'd encourage newcomers not to be put off by Sliding Doors as a romantic comedy, or Blind Chance as a cerebral foreign film, I would discourage the common dismissal of Run Lola Run as simply an extended music video or live action video game. The look and feel of this filmis deliberately unique, but there's more happening in each frame than meets the eye. If you've ever replayed an event over and over in your mind wondering what you might have done differently to change it for the better, you may find yourself considering it again over the course of this movie.