Story structure is a subject that fascinates me, and this is what led me to watch Run, Lola, Run, a 1998 film shot in Berlin and written and directed by Tom Tykwer. Intriguing and original, this film really gripped me from start to finish. It deals with a number of themes, but above all it addresses the question of how chance events can have a profound effect on lives. This is a subject tackled very well by the hugely enjoyable Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors, and Run, Lola, Run is just as good.
Franka Polenta plays Lola, a feisty and charismatic young woman whose dodgy boyfriend has made a total mess of his part in a crime. He's lost a lot of money as a result, and the bad guys are just about to find out, and make him pay. They are likely to show up in twenty minutes. Lola tells him, in effect, not to panic. She will sort things out and dash over to meet him within that timescale.
We are supplied with three different versions of what happens on Lola's run. In each of the stories, she encounters the same people, but the outcomes differ strikingly. The compressed timescale, pulsating soundtrack and the sight of Lola dashing frantically through the streets of Berlin keeps the viewer gripped. What is going to happen this time? The boyfriend is a rather pathetic loser, and Lola has a crazy streak,but never mind. We want a happy ending - of course we do. Unfortunately, it's not always available.
This is one of the best foreign films I've seen in a long time. As long as you buy into the premise, it's engaging from start to finish. Polenta is terrific, and the variations in the storylines (which have many connecting elements) are compelling. If you needed any reminder about the lottery element in life's big decisions, Run, Lola, Run supplies it. I found this a really thought-provoking film, and I can strongly recommend it.