By Alexander Wood
History is built on the chronological need for time; each event being neatly stacked upon each other, forming a classic narrative that is predictably linear. Tom Tykwer’s film ‘Run Lola Run’ is driven by the disruption of time, which offers the possibility of new experiences, paths and narratives. Viewers experience the film through Lola’s (Franka Potente) continual movement, discovering how minuscule encounters can drastically alter the future.
The film begins and before any images appear on screen, the sound of a clock ticking becomes the focus of the viewer—each tick signifies the importance of time throughout Tykwers’ work. The sounds are followed by images of an animalistic clock and a pendulum swinging back and forth like a metronome, syncing the viewer to the beat, rhythm and time of the film. Finally, the clock opens its mouth allowing the viewer to enter the film-scape, in same way that Lola begins her journey to disrupt time and save the life of her lover Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu).
Tykwer’s use of clock sounds before the film starts ensures that the viewer instantly becomes aware of the temporal within the film, while also subtlety hinting at the external experience of time perceived by the viewer outside of the film. The relationship of internal time (that which is displayed within the film) and the external time (that which is experienced by the audience) is integral to understanding Lola’s three very different journeys.
Lola visits her father on the first journey to save Manni, she screams at such a frequency that the clock in her father’s office shatters, destroying the linear laws of time within the film. From this point onwards time is unhinged. It appears to the viewer that the film is a continual replay of moments, each section of the film returns to the same spot. The audience perceives reality chronologically, following the narrative from Lola’s home to the bank, and then to the street corner where the end of the story is decided. History, religion, life and death, are defined by the movement of linear time (the beginning, the middle and the end) which is present within the film, however it is subverted by Lola’s ability to ‘shatter’ or alter time.
Lola’s scream is the central focus of the film and without it the many narratives and possibilities of her journey would not have been possible. The scream is a type of visceral expression that only pours out of a place of dyer necessity, where words fail to express the importance of life or death. The scream is also employed in the final section of the film where Lola screams in order to win the money needed to save Manni’s life – successfully altering time and history.
When Lola shatters time anything becomes possible—history can be rewritten, changed or altered. This ability to change the past is very interesting considering Germany’s collective history related to the holocaust. Tykwer was part of a new wave of filmmakers in Germany at the time, and his film, which references time and the re-visioning of history, can be viewed as a way of dealing with the collective experience of the holocaust decades later. The Tin Drum a film based on the famous novel by Günter Grass, which captures the perspective of Oskar, a young German boy during the Second World War, who also has the ability to scream shattering time, stopping himself from growing up. This allusion to Grass’ work is done to explore the subject of history, time and the holocaust within Tykwer’s film.
The viewer enters the theatre knowing that on screen, hours become minutes and minutes become hours. Each time Lola experiences a moment, a trip or fall, or a scream, the viewer experiences this in real time. Tykwer blends the illusion of time within the film (one that ebbs and flows) with real chronological time by dividing Lola’s journey into three equal sections; each representing twenty minutes within the film and in real time; that which is experienced by the viewers in their seats. When the audience is informed that Lola has twenty minutes to rescue her lover Manni with $100,000, the clock starts for both the audience and characters. Tykwer uses a dualistic voice, one which simultaneously embraces chronology and rejects it in the next breath.
This duality of voice is achieved when Tykwer disrupts his own employment of external time by creating distorted visuals of time within the film; panning shots of clocks, watches, all of which represent the inversion of the chronological. Although time is portrayed as being sped up, the actual time of each film section remains a constant twenty minutes. The multiple voices and narratives within ‘Run Lola Run’ creates a film that is equally impressive in its narrative style and technical ability.
The ideas of time, history and the possibilities of human life make ‘Run Lola Run’ a compelling, cinematically rich film that offers countless areas of discussion. Tykwer’s work provides the right mix of entertainment and critical thinking that can captivate even the most discerning film enthusiast. If you haven’t seen the film, ‘Run Lola Run’ it should certainly be on your watch list, as it represents a quality piece of German cinema.