At the end of our exploring we shall not cease from exploration . . . and the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started. . . and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot
A critical moment is a result of intricate parts working together to create that single moment in time. If you alter one aspect the results may vary. How you arrive at the present has much to do with the past. Run Lola Run, a film by Tom Tykwer explores the way we control free will, but also how we are bound by causality. It begins with a phone call and some bad news that sends Lola running to her imminent future. The task is to get $100,000 in 20 minutes so she can save her boyfriend Mani. Can she do it?
The pacing of the film harkens back to the 1990s with its minimal approach, bare camera angles and fast images in anticipation of the future. The film is set in Berlin, Germany, which lends itself to a functional modernity. Lola represents chaos within the world of order and rules. Immediately from the onset of the film, we are thrown into action as the main character is given a critical choice. Lola runs out of her house in a maddening pace not caring, who she might push over on the sidewalk with the song “I wish” carrying her along.
I wish I was a hunter
In search of different food
I wish I was the animal
Which fits into that mood
I wish I was a person
With unlimited breath
I wish I was a heartbeat
That never comes to rest
Mani is in trouble as a result of her not being able to pick him up a precise location, but also due to his own mental weakness. It comes down to Lola to save him under 20 minutes. While she’s running you can’t help but question if Mani is actually deserving of her sacrifice despite her small culpability. There was something empowering about watching Lola rush to her destiny and be the spark that could save her boyfriend’s life. She has the ability to change the outcome prior to the clock striking. Is she racing against the clock or the moments along the way that might stop her?
The film brings into questions, the whole notion of free will, and if we are truly independent to make our own choices. There is a push and pull of free will and determinism running through the film. It’s possible that some of our choices are bound by patterns of cause and effect, and by nature and nurture, so our free will is actually limited.
The premise of Lola’s dilemma is simple and bound by a set of rules, but what happens between the beginning and the end is still theory. There are several versions of the initial storyline. With every version Lola is more present and in tune with the moment. Each alternate version plays like a loop in a video game in which the character is given other try to find a more advantageous outcome then the last.
“The ball is round, a game lasts 90 minutes—everything else is pure theory. Off we go!” – Herr Schuster
When she bumps into bystanders, we see a flash-forward of their lives. A seemingly inconsequential meeting has ramifications. It’s also possible that this chance encounter didn’t actually cause anything, but in the newer version there are alternate possibilities for all the characters.