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Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run (original German title Lola Rennt, which translates to Lola Runs or Lola is Running) is a 1998 film by German screenwriter and director Tom Tykwer, starring Franka Potente as Lola. more...

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It is an unconventional film, in that it covers the same twenty-minute span of time three times, each differing in small details that in turn lead the story to radically different outcomes. The script follows a spiral structure. Spirals are also frequently used as a visual motif, partially as an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, which Tykwer admires. The film, particularly with its time limit and "multiple lives" concept, also owes a clear debt to Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski, who explored the theme in films such as Blind Chance, The Double Life of Véronique, and Three Colors: Red. (Tykwer would go on to direct Heaven, which Kieślowski had planned as his next film, after Kieślowski's death.)

Another film from the same year as Run Lola Run that explores parallel universes is Peter Howitt's Sliding Doors, starring Gwynneth Paltrow.

While most German films in English speaking countries are subtitled, this film is one of the few German films to have been dubbed into English, alongside The Princess and the Warrior, Anatomy, Der Schuh des Manitu and Das Boot. However, the English dub was widely panned, and it was generally recommended to watch the original German version.


Lola's boyfriend, Manni, is involved in a smuggling operation. Manni's final task in a particular job is to transport 100 000 marks to his boss Ronnie. Lola is supposed to drive Manni to the meeting, but her moped has been stolen. Manni resorts to public transportation when Lola doesn't appear, but he accidentally leaves the money on a subway train, where it is found by a bum. He places a frantic phone call to Lola and explains the situation: if he doesn't have the money when he meets Ronnie at noon, Manni will be killed. Lola vows to find the money by then, but noon is only twenty minutes away. It is at this point that the alternate realities sequence begins.

  • First Reality - With little time and no vehicle, Lola runs through the streets of Berlin to get to her father's bank, trying to get money from him. When he refuses, she and Manni rob a grocery store, and Lola is accidentally shot by a police officer shortly afterward.
  • Second Reality - As she dies, the film suddenly seems to start over; it jumps back to the end of her phone call from Manni, and again she tries to get the money from her father. However, a small detail near the beginning changes, and so the outcome is wildly different: she ends up robbing her father's bank at gunpoint. She brings the money to Manni, but he is run down by an ambulance as he crosses the street.
  • Third Reality - The story starts a third time. She gets to her father's bank only to see him driving away. She then runs through the town, asking for divine help. She comes to a casino, gets a single 100 mark chip, and finds a roulette table. She bets on 20 and wins. She leaves her winnings on 20 for the next spin, winning again. She has the money, but she still has to catch up with Manni by noon. She hitches a ride in an ambulance, which is carrying a security guard from her father's bank; he presumably suffered a heart attack. Lola says to herself "I'll stay with him," and holds the hand of the man, and moments later he starts to recover to a normal heart rate. Her statement, though not explained, may be a resolution to her ambivalence about her relationship with Manni. Meanwhile, Manni has borrowed a phonecard from a blind woman to make a phone call seeking a loan. He returns the phone card, but this time, unlike in the previous two sequences, he thanks her. She then gestures with her head, and Manni looks up to notice the bum with his money riding by on a bike. Manni is successful in chasing down the bum, recovering his money, and delivering it to Ronnie. The movie ends with Manni asking Lola what's in her bag.

Throughout the film, Lola bumps into people, talks to them, or passes them by entirely. Details of that person's future are subsequently shown in a series of still frames. The futures are widely divergent from encounter to encounter. In one scenario, a woman whom Lola accidentally bumps into wins the lottery and becomes rich; in a different scenario, she remains poor and her child is taken away by social workers. The encounters with Lola differ only slightly, so the vastly changed futures in the "flash forwards" are an example of the butterfly effect.


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