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Life: Reset, Themes of Escape in Run, Lola, Run

04/13/2011

Tom Tykwer’s film Run, Lola Run marks an important contradiction to traditional cinema, and especially traditional crime cinema.  In most films, an attempt is made on the filmmaker’s part to create a cinematic mythology that closely mirrors reality.  Typically, most films assume a naturalistic point of view of the world, only changing laws of nature that directly conflict with the filmmaker’s ability to tell the story they want to tell.  For instance, in reality, police can trace a phone call in a matter of seconds, but in every cop movie ever, the bad guy calls up the good guy only to hang up the phone right before a trace is made.  The directors of those films change the facts of the universe in order to create a stronger experience.  And in a film like Star Wars, separate sets of rules are created from the ground up for an entirely different universe.  But in Run, Lola Run, director Tom Tykwer presents us with a world that looks very much like reality, but feels and plays out like something else entirely.

For many, the closest approximation is a videogame, a story that is controlled in part by the person/character on whose focus the story is about.  This is not a world where the principle character is subject to the rules of the universe.  This is a world where the rules of the universe are subject to the desires of the principle character.  It is a prime example of film’s ability to embrace non-reality as a means of coming upon truth.  It proves beyond any doubt that the rules of a cinematic mythology are only the same as that of reality to the extent of the filmmaker’s desires.

While there are some filmmakers (Lars Von Trier, I’m thinking of you) who desire to create a cinematic experience that closely approximates the experience of reality, there is nothing non-cinematic about a film embracing fantasy, in place of reality.  There is nothing about Run, Lola Run that necessarily disconnects the viewer from feeling an emotional experience.  Therefore, there is nothing in a realistic approach to film that is entirely superior to a non-real approach.  And one quick look at storytelling history tells us that many people all over the world are more comfortable with an experience that is simultaneously escaping and escapable.

In the movie, Lola escapes her problems by taking control of her situation.  If we understand the main character of a film as being a stand-in for the audience, then Run, Lola Run builds its own story based on the above-mentioned principle of story’s being simultaneously an escape, and escapable.  I choose to escape from real world problems by entertaining myself with film, but if the film takes me through an experience I don’t desire to have, then I have the power to escape that experience as well.  When Lola is shot 20 minutes into the film, she thinks back to what she loves about her life, namely her relationship with her boyfriend.  And when she notices her dilemma of being near death, she chooses to escape and try again.  For her, reality is escapable.  But it is not without effort, and certainly not without process.

Any experience that humans can possibly have requires the process of time.  When I tell a joke, the punch line is only funny if it has been properly set-up.  Something as simple as humor is based on the need for process.  In the case of film, the director is in complete control of the process through which the story is told.  And in Run, Lola Run, Tykwer shows us a process through which the main character is ultimately dissatisfied with where her experience has taken her.  The character challenges the experience and takes control.  This gives us an inclination that perhaps the story is not dictated by the filmmaker but by the character.  Which is the god of film?  The character cannot perform any action that is not dictated by the filmmaker, but the character of Lola shows a very real drive to challenge the established “roller-coaster” experience.

In deconstructing this film, one must acknowledge that the process of film is more important than the finale.  Audiences have a love-hate relationship with the end credits of a film.  Because on the one hand it offers a form of closure, distinguishing on their behalf between reality and cinema-fantasy; but on the other hand it brings them back into the very reality they chose to escape by walking into a movie theater.  Thus, while Tom Tykwer and Lola share the ability to control the world of the film Run, Lola Run, that power cannot be passed on to the audience.  It is only in the realm of fantasy that character transcends nature.  But that does not mean that real-world audiences cannot be inspired by fantastical experience.  It is in our acknowledgments of fantasy’s inherent truth, that we embrace non-reality, for the sake of the process of experience that it offers us.

 

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