Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run is the third film by Tom Tykwer, after which he became a cult director for many generations in Germany and other countries, similar to Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, and Jim Jarmusch. The film is about three alternative ways of casino robbery in which Lola often should make a choice. However, it distinguishes from films from the 1990s not only by its original postmodern structure but also because it reflects the socio-cultural challenges at that time. As Brockmann states, the film symbolized “a dynamic young Germany synonymous with what many observers had begun to call the post-reunification ‘Berlin Republic’”. On the one hand, the film continued the tradition of European art-house, focusing on the works of Dardenne brothers and criminal films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. On the other side, it was completely a new movie, full of experiments with narrative, philosophical ideas, and social implications. This paper proposes that the film gained cult status thanks to the exploitation of the European popular culture, particularly with video game aesthetics, clip montage, and criticism of bourgeois culture.


The development of the same situation in three different versions has been based on video game aesthetics that was popular in the 1990s. Foss, Waters, and Armada propose that Run Lola Run not only “identifies structure, act, and outcome, but it also conducts an experiment with different relationships among these elements”. In this case, the experimental use of bright accents, the conventionality of urban landscape, and the hyperbolic image of Lola are examples of the exploitation of video games. In fact, Lola recalls the hero who overcomes obstacles and uses superpower, including running and power of voice, for the ultimate goal. She also someone, who “has always had a strong belief in fate”, which identifies Lola as an exceptional character. In a sense, Berlin reminds the principle of game design, and, thus, it similar to Polaroid’s photos or memory postcards. It is no accident that Lola has three attempts, similar to the early classic video games. Moreover, she becomes more experienced with every sequence, using the previous mistakes to overcome obstacle, including avoiding the guy on the stairs or using the guard’s gun. Thus, the main character is not Lola, but the viewer itself who plays with her in this game.

The director has also used the aesthetics of virtual reality to show the illusion of real life, which depends on chance. For Tykwer, it was important to show the way out from postmodern multi-reality. One of these exits is the moral responsibility for personal actions because every decision in the movie has its consequences. The director hints that the young generation is only carefree, but over time their actions will affect the next generation as their parents have influenced their fate. The semantics of possible worlds also affects the various possibilities of other realities, including those who have been affected by Lola’s run. It indicates that the world has some facts that have an impact on other realities. This idea is particularly relevant for both Einstein’s theory of relativity and the postmodern theories of multiple realities. In this case, Lauer believes that the events have happened in their illusory world to the point when there is no sense to imagine anything new.

One more important principle in the deconstruction of mass culture is the exploitation of MTV culture. It defined the lifestyle of young people in the 1990s, and, thus, reflected their hopes and fears. Tom Tykwer used modern techno music not only for achieving the ideal rational rhythm that consisted of three temporal acts but also for the auditory effect. The director was perfectly aware that the modern MTV generation grew up in different cultural context, and it was important to use its key symbols to convey the story more convincingly. Therefore, the film used clip montage with sharp transitions, short remarks, and animated elements. It seems that all dynamic events remind comic book with its vivid images and brief remarks in bubbles. One more recognizable symbol for Germans is the use of Hans Paetsch as a storyteller, who is known as the narrator of children’s stories. 

Music in the film performs a ritual function, because, in fact, it completely immerses the viewer into the story. Moreover, techno music is ideally suited not only for running Lola but also for her despair. In this case, the director used bright colors, especially red as a symbol of aggression, sexuality, and, at the same time, emotional instability. The episode in casino proves this idea, where Lola wants to win money, and suddenly her voice breaks all the glasses and suppresses the audience. In this sense, Tykwer transferred a social despair of the new German generation that was tired from the hypocritical bourgeois culture, as well as from the Berlin Wall, and wanted to integrate into the world community. According to Halle, Lola’s run “was always directed from the local to the global”. The techno soundtrack also points the cyclical nature of events in Lola’s life, and, thus, this style always accompanies her running. The idea of cycling led many critics to compare the film with Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock.

The criticism of capitalism is the key theme in Run Lola Run because three sequences are the result of both Lola’s and Manni’s poverty. Her father works in the central Berlin bank, and it is also one element of the dramatics because Lola’s choice depends on his decision. However, in the first scenario, Lola’s father refuses to give her money, and, thus, it causes her boyfriend to rob a bank. Lola is the epitome of rebellion from many young people who called themselves as the Generation X, because of the cultivated freedom, independence, and equality. Instead, capitalism offers a different formula of life, where every person can get the money by himself or herself, and there is no solidarity, but only completion. Instead, the film breaks this pattern, because robbery is a form of vertical overcoming of the social classes. For instance, there are symbols of the bourgeois culture that Lola overcomes on the way, such as casino, supermarket, the Oberbaumbrücke, and bank at Behrenstrasse 37. Incidentally, the same process happened in one more cult film Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Thomas Jahn, so this theme was important for German directors. 


In conclusion, Run Lola Run used the potential of popular culture to create special visual and narrative context. On the surface, the film gives an impression of triviality and simplicity, but due to this technique Tom Tykwer tried to hide political, social, and economic issues. He used the aesthetics of video games to blur the boundaries between the real and the virtual world, and, thus, Lola’s actions resembled principles of the illusive reality. Therefore, the film demonstrates local and global events can drop one reality into different levels. Thanks to MTV culture, the director also used the techno soundtrack that reminded clips with a rapid turnover. It also leads to the critique of the capitalist culture that has been in the crisis in Germany and many countries at that time. Thus, Lola represented the voice of the younger generation that wanted to get out of the cultural, social, and economic crisis. This film became a cult hit because the image of Lola embodied their hopes for better future.

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