“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.