When Run Lola Run was released in the US in 1999, it was already the largest-grossing movie in German history. The film's success makes sense, since its fast pace, unique vision, and heart-pumping soundtrack make for the kind of movie that people had to tell others about—or see again.
At the time, audiences had never experienced anything like director Tom Tykwer's thrilling tale of Lola—portrayed with brilliant urgency by Franka Potente—trying to come up with $100,000 in 20 minutes to save her boyfriend's life. Throughout the film, Lola's 20-minute run across Berlin is told three different times in three different ways, and in each retelling, there's one tiny change that dramatically affects her outcome.
Over the past 15 years, the film's achieved cult status, and its average rating on Amazon of four-and-a-half stars reflects that, with 73 percent of users awarding it the maximum rating of five stars. At the time of this writing, only 3 percent of the 666 (!) Amazon reviews give the film one star, a fair number from Amazon users pissed that the subtitles didn't work on their streaming rental; the rest are, in my opinion, contrarians doomed to live on the wrong side of culture.
We pulled some of their most vicious, froth-mouthed critiques of the film—and then we read them to her to see what she thought.
Estela Kehoe's one-star review from October 26, 2013 is titled "Don't waste your money": "I had heard of this movie, and wanted to see it. The movie was terrible. I love Franka Potente, but this movie is not good. It had a good concept but it just dragged on and on. You watch one scene over and over and over. I donated this movie to Goodwill."
Franka Potente: She's not right or wrong. The film plays the same scene a few times with different results, so it can feel like it's dragging if you're not paying attention. If you're a hunched over a bowl of chips or if you go to the bathroom at the wrong moment, you might feel like you're seeing the same movie again and again. I can see that.
That's how people view a lot of TV and movies nowadays—we do other things while we watch. Maybe this movie is more difficult to watch now than it was nearly 20 years ago.
Well, people certainly aren't as patient—I notice it in myself! I just watched one of my favorite movies the other day, Belle de Jour,and it seems so slow now—things take forever to develop. Today, you have to make yourself sit down and breathe. We've lost the ability to immerse ourselves in things. When Run Lola Run came out, the thing about it was it was a very fast-paced film. Today, all movies are fast-paced, and the editing's so quick that I feel like I'm being robbed of an experience. Everything is accelerated now.
What's your response to Estela about this sentence in particular: "The movie was terrible"?
That's totally fine. Honestly, I can't force you to love it. I like a good, strong statement. I walk out of movies all the time saying "That was terrible!" or "That sucked!" I'd rather you felt strongly one way or the other than not at all.
This is from Paulo Leite in August, 2007. This one-star review is titled "SPOILER - a stupid film, unimaginative, badly written... with barely one good idea." "Basically, this is just a 'one-idea-film' that would have made a GREAT short feature. Instead, they stretched it into a feature film. And it is all offensively idiotic."
[Laughs] I love that!
Do you find the film offensively idiotic?
No, but I love that it invoked such a strong position. Out of all things for the film is, unimaginative certainly isn't one of them. A lot of things in the film were actually new at the time, so I'd certainly disagree with that part. I would be very curious to hear which movies Paulo thinks are imaginative. Which other movies did he review?
He sounds smart, at least.
"Greg" wrote a one-star review titled "Three words: empty, repetitive and boring": "I know all opinions are subjective but I do not undertsand [sic] what you could find interesting in this movie. The love story is stereotyped. The boyfriend is an idiot (which makes the girl an even more idiot), the soundtrack is exhausting and the plot is non existing. In this type of movie there is MUCH better which has been done. Please....."
Well, the boyfriend is an idiot—I totally agree with that. But in Lola's defense, she's young—in her early 20s. [Laughs] I've never [thought] that his being an idiot makes her stupid for running all around for him and trying to solve his problems, but...yeah, that's what young chicks do.
"The love story is stereotyped"—what could that possibly mean?
She's dating a guy who holds people at gunpoint in a small supermarket in Berlin, so I don't know about that one.
This one from "A Customer" is quick and to the point: "It made me dizzy. I feel asleep."
It makes me dizzy too! There's a lot of fast editing, and running, so if you have a condition, maybe you'd fall asleep. Maybe it was exhausting to watch all the running. I don't know how could you fall asleep [watching] a movie like that, though.
I mean, it's 90 minutes of you running to an energetic soundtrack.
I once dated a guy when I was in Japan, and when I visited his family, we rented Meet the Parents because I said, "Oh my God, it's my favorite film! Let's watch this!" During the scene where Ben Stiller ends up on the rooftop and his cigarette burns everything, my boyfriend and his mom both got up and said, "We're tired—we're going to bed." It was too much for them—the action stressed them out—and they apologized and went to bed right when the action was getting going. There are certain people who get tired in the face of action. Maybe "A Customer" is one of them.
From zzcatfelix's review "Run Lola, Run Lola, run Lola and again run Lola," August 2002: "I did not get it. She is just running and running and again running. No philosophical idea. No point. The movie is telling us the same story in three different versions. Why? Boring..."
You can look at the movie in different ways—you can see the action in itself, which is that the person keeps running, or you can see the philosophical or universal message behind it. But I'm not gonna bore anyone with this again. Actually, this person totally got it—running, running, running: That's all the movie is.
The word "run" is in the movie's title twice.
In German, the movie is called Lola Rennt. When I was told that I was doing a movie called Lola Rennt, I was like, "What?" I didn't get it, or the title. I started reading the script, and I still couldn't fathom that it was about a person named Lola running. Before my agent explained it to me, I couldn't even make any sense out of it.
One last review: "This is one movie where the title makes as much sense as the content. I gave it one star, although Franka deserves five stars for fitness."
I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day! I was so unfit, but I am glad it didn't look that way.
How did you manage to smoke two packs a day and run that much?
I was young and stupid—you know how it is. It's so crazy to look back. I was 22! Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I would drink and smoke and get up and shoot a movie. The movie was so much fun to work on, though, and the director was a lot of fun. Even if you showed up tired, everyone was hanging in there and having a good time. There's no way you were tired. It was really one of the greater working experiences.
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