THREE STARS - Intriguing

In our effort to run away from our problems, our haste often leads us into far greater ones.  But at the same time, quick action in times of trouble can avert far greater tragedy.  The problem is, no one knows when running will bring tragedy or victory.

 The truth of this reality is creatively explored in an experimental German film with the English title: “Run, Lola, Run.”  Using a frenetic pace that matches its theme, Director Tom Tykwer has received the praise of audiences at both the Toronto Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival for his innovative approach.  Rather than giving one possible storyline and the consequence of Lola’s hasteful attempt to save her boyfriend’s life, Tykwer gives three possibilities, each with dramatically different results.

 The underlying philosophical suggestion of the first two conclusions implies that our lives are only a series of happenstances with no larger moral purpose or assistance.  But in the third conclusion, this empty philosophy is confronted with a hope which, though pitifully incomplete, nevertheless gives a ray of hope that this is more than an happenstance world.  If even minuscule changes in timing, such as running past a driveway only 1/2 second later or earlier, could actually save our life or the life of someone we love, then we are truly victims of circumstances.

 But if, instead, we live in a world in which there are far greater forces at work which can protect, guide, empower and forgive, then there is a hope that pervades life.  The differences between these two philosophies directly impact the moral choices we make within the individual situations of our lives.

 The central character of the film is a young girl with punk-red hair named Lola (Franka Potente).  When she receives a frantic phone call from her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), she realizes that the unfortunate theft of her moped has set into action a chain of events which is now threatening her boyfriend’s life.  She must, within 20 minutes of time, come up with 100,000 marks or he will be killed by the local mafia boss.

 Though this illegality and its consequences are only a part of the set-up for Lola’s actions, they nevertheless express the genesis of the problems for Lola and Manni.  If they are opportunists in the coincidences of life, with no moral compass to help them choose between right and wrong, then they will become the victims of those same coincidences.

 This fact is filmed for us in the first two results of Lola’s run.  In both, either she or Manni pay the ultimate price as they feel forced into actions of mortal desperation in an attempt to save his life.

 Though we won’t spoil the intrigue of the three plots by explaining how this is true, in both of these first two possible paths there is no moral influence for good at any point in their journey except to run through a regiment of habit-attired nuns. 

 It is intriguing that Tykwer would choose to include this presence within the film.  What is he saying about the religious presence in the world?  Lola neither stops to ask for their help, or even seems to notice their presence except to run through the middle of their nicely formed lines and disrupt them.

 Is Tykwer suggesting that even the ordered nature of religious life is just as susceptible to life’s happenstances as are the rest of the characters in his film, or is he suggesting that help was present, but Lola was in too big of a hurry to slow down and receive it?

 It is in the final plot that we find this spiritual suggestion developed more fully when Lola is unable to reach her father in time to ask for his help.  Knowing no where else to turn, she begins to ask God for help.  Hers is not so much a prayer of faith as a prayer of desperation often spoken in times of anguish.  As an answer to her request, Tykwer does not put her outside the door of the church, but at the door of a sophisticated, wealthy casino.

 With a luck that defies everything the first two paths have suggested, we find Lola having help in dealing with the difficulties she and Manni are facing.  What she does not know is that due to the influence of a blind woman, Manni is also able to see the solution to his original plight.  In the end, both Manni and Lola are able to not only repay the money, but also to have an extra “blessing” for themselves and, in the process, Lola saves her father’s life.

 The underlying suggestions of the three endings of “Run, Lola, Run” express spiritual approaches to life that result in dramatic differences in how we choose to live our lives.  Lola had three chances to even begin to get it right.  We have only one.

Posted on June 1, 2011 and filed under 3 STARS, INTRIGUING.