Films are like children. You send them on their way. You’re happy if they’re alive and well, and if they send you a postcard once in a while. I’m happy they live their own lives.

Run Lola Run, the unforgettable 1999 cult classic, is sprinting back into theaters on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, complete with a glorious 4K restoration. Written and directed by Tom Tykwer, the iconoclastic film was unlike its German counterparts of the time: It found both critical and commercial success around the world. It picked up the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, and went on to become one of the highest grossing foreign-language films ever Stateside.

Jean-Luc Godard once made the glib provocation that all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun. Tykwer only needs Potente. There’s a gun here, too, but the star’s turn as flame-haired Lola is all propulsive motion. If you remember, Lola answers a call from her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreau), a small-time courier for a big-time gangster, which sets things into motion. Manni has a big problem: His boss is coming to pick up a hundred thousand deutsche marks in twenty minutes and he has lost the cash. His life on the line, Lola runs through the streets of Berlin to reach him, and she must somehow replace the money along the way. As the clock ticks down, the tiniest of choices become life-altering—or life-ending—and the fine line between fate and fortune begins to blur. Lola attempts three variations of the scenario, each as frantic as the last, trying to force her banker father to cough up the dough as Manni pursues the homeless man who snatched his loot.

Anthem corralled Tykwer in Berlin and Potente in Los Angeles for a Zoom conversation.

Run Lola Run re-opens in theaters nationwide on June 7.

[Editor’s Note: The following conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.]

I’m not sure if I can quite articulate just how influential Run Lola Run has been for me. It’s one of the first DVDs I ever purchased and I watched it obsessively, religiously. We all have these things that inspire us, and this is one of the movies that pushed me into film school.

Franka Potente: That’s so lovely!

Tom Tykwer: We’re just finding out there’s going to be hundreds and hundreds of prints released for the reissue. That’s more than double or triple the amount of screens we had for the initial run.

Twenty-five years later, have your perceptions of the film changed in any significant way?

Tom: The funny thing is, no. Ultimately, no, even though we have really moved on with our lives. Rewatching it, it was really my first time since fifteen or twenty years ago. It’s crazy.

That is crazy, but I also kind of expected that. You’re an artist. You have better things to do!

Tom: Yeah, I don’t go back to my films. Films are like children. You send them on their way. You’re happy if they’re alive and well, and if they send you a postcard once in a while. You gave them your heart. You’ve given them everything you have. After that, you want them to be free and to do what they want to do. You want them to be themselves. That’s how I look at it. If you love your films, and I do, once I’m done, I’m kind of done. I’m happy they live their own lives.

Seeing it again, it was a reminder that, yes, this is what I still look for when I watch films. The intensity. The energy. The urge to invent aesthetics. The urge to reinvent yourself while you employ those aesthetics. The emotional complexity paired with kinetic energy. That’s what I wanna see today. That’s still the movie I’m trying to make. Rewatching it, I realized it’s still the blueprint, even though I’ve gone elsewhere in my filmmaking. It also really reminded me of the experience of making it. It’s mirrored a little bit in a recent experience I had in making my new feature film [The Light]. For the first time, it was quite a similar experience to Run Lola Run in terms of intensity and in the closeness I felt with everyone involved. There was a feeling of family, and the feeling that we’re doing something wild. We don’t care if nobody gets it. Because we love it. These feelings are still in the film. It is completely alive. In that sense, it doesn’t feel old to me at all.

It is alive. It’s as exhilarating as when I had first watched it. And now it’s newly restored.

Franka: It’s similar for me. On the one hand, there’s a certain distance, of course, where you can enjoy the film differently because you’re not so close to it. At the same time, I see it and I still have so many intense memories of making the film after all these years. You watch a certain scene and you’re like, “Oh my god, that day was so hot.” You remember your hair color running down your neck as red sweat. I still remember the little details. For me, the viewing experience is quite similar to before, maybe ‘cause the movie was really close to my heart. It was a very formative experience. And now with the landscape being so different in filmmaking on both ends, I think we kind of long for that feeling we generated when we made Run Lola Run, not having known at the time what it was. This movie is rare, and I didn’t know this when we made it. I did not. I was like, “Yes, this is what it’s like to make a movie!” [laughs] No, actually. It is not, you know? All filmmakers are different. Also, we have different parameters now with factors like money and time and going digital. It’s all different. So there is a longing, realizing in a bit of a sad way how good we had it.

It’s still wild to me the creative swings you make with this film, and they all land somehow. When did you realize that it was all working, that it was connecting with audiences? Because when you’re in the middle of any creative endeavor, you don’t really know in that moment.

Tom: Franka was reminding me of this secret screening we had quite early on, far before the release, just as the movie was coming out of the mix. So it was a fresh first print. At the time, we were still absolutely inside the “joy bubble,” which I think you can feel in the movie because, as I said, it’s really alive. As artists, you connect with the audience, but not so much in the way of looking for recognition. It’s more like an invisible bond that you share without knowing. And we know what it means to be in the flow. It’s like when you see tennis players on the court: They know they won’t lose. To them, there’s no way they will lose. It’s that same kind of flow, which is such a rare pleasure in art when it happens. As you grow older, it’s even rarer to get that flow going for months and months onward, and you’re just trying to find pieces of it. You try to find a few hours where you’re in that zone in your collaborations as a director. When those moments come, it feels like, “No matter what anybody else says, what we do in this room right now is right.” On Run Lola Run, that energy was sustained for such a long time that, when we woke from it, we suddenly had a print in our hands. At that secret screening in a theater with 800 seats, no one knew what to expect. It was a double feature and nobody knew we were going to play. I don’t remember what that first movie was, Franka. I don’t think it was Trainspotting, actually. I think it was something else. 

Franka: That would’ve been exhausting as a double feature. [laughs]

Tom: Anyway, when people were buying the ticket for the first film, they said, “You get an extra German movie for free,” which then usually means [Tom makes an annoyed groaning sound].

Franka: Well, it was also late.

Tom: I’m sorry?

Franka: It was also late, so people could have been tired by the time our movie started.

Tom: Yeah. I remember we were sitting there and the movie tore the roof off the place. The movie played so well it was beyond belief. And it was like I was seeing the movie for the first time. I saw it for the first time in the way that you do when you see it with an audience because we never had test screenings or stuff like that then. That was basically our test screening. We had thought we’d done something strangely idiosyncratic for a little nerdy bubble, for some geeky art movie lovers. It was so amazing because, from then on, we suddenly felt like, “No, this is something else.”

Speaking of changing parameters, going into a movie blind like that feels foreign now more than ever, let alone being blown away by it. Now we get trailers that show us entire movies.

Tom: Yeah, that’s the way trailers are being cut. It’s the way the system understands its audience. Of course, the algorithms are telling us that people really want to know exactly what they’re getting beforehand, which is also why people go back to the big restaurant chains. I disagree with it, of course. So that’s why when there are exceptions, when things are done differently, it’s so satisfying. It’s so satisfying to get just a glimpse of something or a sense of something, you know? For instance, one of my favorite filmmakers working today is Yorgos [Lanthimos]. I’m sure you know that he has a new film. You must watch this trailer. It’s incredible. What is it called?

Franka: Kinds of Kindness.

Yeah, the anthology.

Tom: Watching the trailer, you don’t know anything. You have no idea. It’s just stuff, but you still want to give it a go, you know? That is something, I have to say. I remember we cut a trailer for Run Lola Run before we finished the movie. It was a very short teaser trailer just out of rushes. We were going to a festival with the film I had done previously called Winter Sleepers and we wanted to tell that audience, “By the way, there’s a new movie coming, so here’s the first two minutes of it.” That trailer was like our Ten Commandments of how we wanted the film to feel. It also didn’t make any sense. But it had this energy and the music we created. Also, we experimented with the editing without knowing how we wanted to use it in the actual film. We just threw everything in there. That trailer was important. During the film’s edit, every two weeks at least, we went back and watched that trailer and said, “Let’s remind ourselves what we actually wanted to do before we go back to the classical rules and get conventional.” Because conventions are the enemy, right?

Do you think there’s some truth to the idea that the greatest accomplishment filmmakers and actors can hope to achieve is in making something that never fades away? I’m talking about the kinds of films and performances that will outlive their makers in a real meaningful way.

Tom: You don’t think about this stuff. [laughs]


Tom: You can’t. I really don’t, and I don’t think so. We are all just dust in the wind. But maybe we can get a taste of it while we’re dust. For instance, in this conversation with you when you say things like this movie was a big part of your life, obviously, that’s still huge and wonderful. It’s lovely because, of course, I connect to it also and I’ve experienced the same thing you’re talking about. Some films have made me who I am. I’ve also had the same thing happen where I watched the same movies over and over and over. I’ve had that deep connection and friendship with movies. And with works of art, I do consider them kind of like friends. There is something magical about that. I’m super proud and happy that we can give that to other people. That’s really satisfying.

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