Eat Your Vegetables: Lola rennt and Dramatic Irony as Love's Performance

“After the game is before the game.”  Sepp Herberger

Lola is a woman who knows what she wants.  We see twenty or so minutes of her life.  But it happens to be the same twenty minutes three different times, so we think we know her, or can at least make a reasonable guess about what makes her tick.

She wants love.  She wants fidelity.  And, of course, she wants money.

This movie is conflicted.  On the one hand, the movie tells us, “Don’t think.  Act.”  On the other hand, it shows us that when we don’t think, our actions have horrible consequences.

Example: Manni, Lola’s boyfriend, loses a lot of money . . . that belongs to a gangster . . . that Manni is supposed to meet in twenty minutes. How does he lose the money? He gets off a U-Bahn when he sees some cops enter his car because that’s his natural reaction. Only this time, he’s left the bag. So even as the plot depends on characters acting rather than thinking, we only have a plot because a character acted before he thought.

Or: After calling Lola his lost cash, Manni decides that his only viable option is to rob a local supermarket chain.  I won’t spoil the particulars, but it does involve Manni getting caught while robbing a local supermarket chain.

Or: Lola decides her only option is to rob the bank her father works at.  It goes as successfully as Manni’s holdup.

The real answer, presented to us in the film’s third installment, is something that never would have occurred to them. This is because it involves something they cannot control.

First, Manni runs into the homeless man who took his money.  Second, Lola goes to a casino and wins lots of money.  Manni and Lola stumble into these conclusions.  They had to be ready, but both events were either serendipitous (when read negatively) or providential (when read positively). They certainly didn’t deserve what happened; neither did they intend for things to work out the way they did.

This gets us closer to the film’s most outlandish feature: that Lola would care about Manni at all.

We don’t see that he’s done anything to deserve it.  In fact, he comes off as a selfish, know-nothing errand boy who is guaranteed to be dead in a year or two . . . if he and Lola don’t break up first.

I think the point is that the love Lola gives Manni is undeserved, just like the money they manage to procure in the film’s third section. Importantly, neither Lola nor Manni can explain to the other one why they would stay with each other. They can never see how their actions are indirectly reshaping the rest of their lives. This gets reinforced by one of the film’s coolest stylistic tricks: an incidental character’s future plays out in a series of Polaroid photographs that appear in time with the film’s ubiquitous techno beat. The film thrives on dramatic irony. We get to see the effects of these characters’ decisions. They remain oblivious, smothered by the seemingly contingent details of their quest.

The issue is not money.  It’s a moment for Lola and Manni to actualize their abstract conversations about death and love. Love only matters when you perform it.  The film thus performs its central theme.

Also, I think that the film is a subtle critique of soccer’s non-sensical rules about tie scores. That’s just a guess though.

About Jonathan Sircy
  • Geoffrey R.

    “I think the point is that the love Lola gives Manni is undeserved”

    Jonathan, can you elaborate on this point, because it would be really helpful for me. I love this movie, except that I find its delightfully frenetic pace robbed of suspense because the entire film is about saving a dude who is never anything but annoying. M. Night Shyamalan’s (much underappreciated) The Village has a similar dynamic in which a female character must save her boyfriend, who is effectively incapacitated throughout much of the film; but in The Village, Shyamalan takes great pains early on to establish that the male protagonist would reciprocate the action if placed in a similar situation; we know his character is worthy of respect, so we want to see him escape death.

    But who wants to see Manni escape? He never in the eighty-odd minutes of the film seems to demonstrate anything arranting viewer sympathy. So back to the original point: Am I missing some cultural nuance by which a German audience would in some ways find Manni likable? Or is his jerkiness just bad writing, a glaring flaw in an otherwise well-made movie (which is how I have always watched it)? But you bring up an interesting alternative: Do you think Tykwer is making a conscious statement about Lola’s unmerited love for Manni? And if so, what exactly do you think his point is, and how is it demonstrated throughout the film? I think I’d like it even more if I oculd watch it in that manner.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    “I find its delightfully frenetic pace robbed of suspense because the entire film is about saving a dude who is never anything but annoying.”

    @Geoffrey – Be that as it may, this is reality. I lose the ability to count on fingers the number of good men or women I know who are married to or dating people who don’t remotely merit their affections. Romantic connections, more often than I care to think about, are inscrutable. Romantic comedies and love stories sell us pretty well on the couple with good chemistry who suit each other and deserve each other, but the way anecdotal history plays out, it becomes clear that chemistry, suitability, and merit are idealisms that don’t really have a lot to do with romantic loyalty.

    So while Manni is a loser and not worth Lola’s loyalty and care (save for that he is a human person and so *is* worthy of care, compassion, and aid), that Lola does care for him unreasonably is imminently realistic. Their relationship doesn’t manipulate us into caring what happens because we adore the coupling; instead, we have to care what happens to Manni and Lola because Lola cares what happens to Manni and Lola.

  • Geoffrey R.

    Oh, I totally understand your point, Seth, and agree 100% that it is realistic. But realism is only half the story in Lola Rennt, with its multiple universes and providential/serednipitous ending. It’s not really set up as pure realism. While it is certainly more than an action movie, it is also not less than one; and as an action movie, the dramatic tension suffers. Besides, even more jerks have some redeeming features, however slight. Now it’s been a little while, but I do remember a moment in one of the interstitial scenes when Manni and Lola are just talking that I almost felt a modicum of empathy for him, but that was relatively small.

    Long story short, I think that their relationship is similar to many, but that as a movie with a narrative thrust, we could have gotten a little more to make Manni seem…not necessarily WORTHY of our interest, but at least WORTH our interest.

  • http://www.theretuned.com Matthew Linder

    Have you ever seen the Yellowcard music video for “Ocean Avenue”? The majority of the music video is a direct quotation of the Lola rennt but what is really fascinating in the music video is the use of a briefcase with the symbol of a lamb on it. The singer is only able to escape the time loop once he reaches the lamb and to me that is a picture of persevering in our pursuit of Jesus and that he is the only one that can transform us.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X