Twenty Years Later, Run Lola Run Is Still Vital Viewing

Franka Potente in Run Lola Run.
Sony Pictures Classics
Franka Potente in Run Lola Run.
You'd think a 20-year-old indie film from Germany would have lost its mojo by now. But experiencing the quirky Run Lola Run all these years later remains satisfying if not truly thrilling. A mix of sci-fi, slapstick, and romance, the movie was director Tom Tykwer's third and a breakout hit in 1998. Nothing he has done since has been as vital or influential. It's hard to think of any recent film from Germany that found similar crossover success.

Propulsive editing that embraces its power to defy time, a dynamic techno soundtrack featuring heavy-metal guitar (much of it co-composed by Twyker), and a breathless, urgent performance by a charming, then-unknown Franka Potente are just a few of the reasons Run Lola Run worked so well. A mix of action, drama, and comedy, the film tells a 20-minute countdown story in 81 minutes. Even though it has moments that hark back to silent-era tropes, such as the breaking of a pane of glass as its being moved by workers, the movie’s greatest influence has to be the reset button on a videogame system.

A year earlier, aficionados of arthouse cinema witnessed a disturbing plot “reset” in Michael Haneke's Funny Games where a VHS player's remote control seems to bring a bad guy back to life. Nothing as surreal or mean-spirited happens in Run Lola Run. The film continually delights the audience through something more mystical but ingrained in the power of cinema, specifically the editing by Mathilde Bonnefoy, which is sometimes timed to the 180 bpm of the film’s soundtrack.

This is a story about a girl coming to her guy's rescue, a sly defiance of the damsel-in-distress trope before anyone was concerned with such representation in film. With her brilliant red bob and mismatched pants and tank top, Lola sprints around Berlin to save her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) from a bind after he forgets a sack of money owed to a gangster on a subway car. She gets three chances. With each attempt to help Manni, something goes terribly wrong, but through some mystical power (maybe love?), Lola gets a do-over, and it's back to the phone call from her beau that alerts her to his desperate situation.

Despite the film offering little background about the characters' relationship, the intense performances of the leads — who are presented at the climax of their story from the outset — grab the viewer as soon as the story kicks off. The only time there's respite is between resets, when Lola and Manni, bathed in a red glow, lie in bed as they casually talk about where they might be in their relationship.

Lola: Do you love me?

Manni: Sure, I do.

Lola: How can you be so sure?

Manni: I don't know. I just am.

Lola: I could be some other girl.

Manni: Uh-uh.

Lola: Why not?

Manni: Because you're the best.

Call it an exploration of the butterfly effect and rabbit holes or an experiment with the elements of cinema, but Run Lola Run is still refreshing and unequivocal and one of the best films of the '90s.

Run Lola Run. 11:30 p.m. Saturday, September 22, at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 786-472-2249. Tickets cost $8 via