Run Lola Run – Interview with Film Writer / Director Tom Tykwer

Run Lola Run Interview with Director Tom Tykwer
Sony Picture Classics
Twenty-five years since its release, Run Lola Run is still in the cultural conversation. Whether you saw it in theaters when it came out and couldn’t get enough of its inventive style, or maybe you just consumed its many homages and parodies by bands like Bon Jovi and Yellowcard and TV Shows like The Simpsons — the German action film has remained as fresh and vibrant as ever. Set in the zany capital city of Berlin, the film follows a young 20-something woman who, after getting a dire message from her boyfriend, must find a way to get 100,000 Marks in only twenty minutes. With its exciting plot and intriguing philosophical debates, Run Lola Run became an international critical and commercial success. This classic film is returning to theaters to delight new and old fans alike this summer. Tom Tykwer sat down with Borrowing Tape to discuss Berlin, his influences, and the film’s reputation.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity:

Hi, I'm Sofia Sheehan of Borrowing Tape, and I'm here today with Tom Tykwer, the legendary director of one of the greatest German films of the last 20 years Run Lola Run, which is coming back to theaters this summer. Congratulations on the re-release.

Thank you. You know, you just said the last 20 years but the movie is actually 25 years ago. Can you imagine? Nobody really believes this.


And time flies. Well, some people might not remember about the movie is that not only you didn't just write and direct it, but you also contributed to the score. I want to know how did working on the music influences storytelling and vice versa.

Oh, a lot. In general, it does a lot in my way of working. In this particular case, we went into the early stages already to define, for instance, the beats per minute of the tracks, so the cut could really relate to the exact timing of this, the scoring. Because the cut was obviously like super accurate cutting, and sometimes like two frames cutting, stuff that we wanted to really work with music. In general, I have over the course of time developed this strategy where I do compose a lot of the stuff with and now with Johnny Klimek who was already then around, and then, it was also Reinhold Heil, we were three of us sort of a band, in advance, meaning sometimes even before the shooting of the film. So, you actually know the vibe of the music in advance, and you really know where you want to go with it, and then of course, you add along the way more and more. And, in this case, we defined at least the timings, the tempo, and the energies of the tracks that we wanted to use for the editing then. So it had a massive impact and, of course, music in general was guiding me all the way through the production.


Another major character in the movie is the city of Berlin. Now, you've obviously worked in Hollywood, you worked all over, but you've come back to Berlin throughout your career, obviously Babylon Berlin. What is it about this city that is so zany and it makes for such an interesting part of your films?

Well, I think what I love most about it is that it's such a mess. It's a mess of a place, but in the best possible way that it's, it's probably the most constantly unfinished place I've seen in the world. There's construction everywhere since, I think, since it started hundreds of years ago. They just keep constructing and messing it up and then ripping the buildings apart again, and then they build them again, and they still don't really work. Nothing really works perfectly, but there is this sense of constant transition and reinvention, and how about this, nothing is finite, and nothing is: "This is how it is". Everything is optionally different, and that is so inspiring.

I think that's the secret magnetism of the city. It's constantly reinventing or forcing itself to reinvent itself, and if you come here, you feel it, you feel that nothing will be there for that long, no club will be there for like the next 25 years, no great restaurant or bar, so you better go now, and you better catch it now. And, it's about the energy, and of course also the fluctuation of life, as an experience is reflected in the way the city functions, and I wanted to capture that also, of course, in the movie. I thought the movie would be a perfect concept to squeeze this energy into.


I think that the movie reflects that. I think one of the great things about it is that at times, it feels like a 90s music video. And at other times it feels kind of like a Buster Keaton silent comedy. Was it hard to find the balance between this kind of past homage and contemporary style?

It rather is a blueprint of I think my style and the stuff, the kind of films I do like. They find coherence in the eclectic. And I think there's a possibility for that. It's like, it's a bit like what DJs do or so. No, they find stuff and they quote stuff, but they bring it together in a unique way. So it is again, something like that stands alone. But I super enjoy the attitude to say, this really feels like a scene out of this kind of a movie. So why not do it like this? Because it's us who do it. So we are going to be the glue that brings it all together because it's still the same actress and the same actress here and same actress there. Doesn't matter whether she's black and white here and video there and animation there, that was her. So she's gonna glue this. And the rest can just breathe where it wants to go because if you love cinema, you love that cinema has this fundamental potential that says anything can happen at any time, like anything.

And it's also when you write, you have to keep in mind in film, you can do anything,  You can always say like, oh, well, but how will it look? I don't know, but,  if I write now 10,000 giant ants see how the universe implodes, there will be a way that I can do it with whatever the means are, in the scale of the budget that I can achieve. Or maybe I'll just draw it or maybe, I'll just have somebody say it but that's the greatness about film. You can always say like, let's do this, and then you do it. And that's what Lola, obviously that's exactly what Lola does now. She just says like, if I can think it, I can do it.


And there's a lot of eclectic influences in the movie. There's Kieslowski in there, elements, some Hitchcock elements. Were there any other directors that really influenced you and are there any contemporary ones today that you admire?

Well, there's probably like a few hundred really relevant filmmakers my life. But that's why I'm an eclectic nerd. I love really all kinds of films. All genres, any approach as long as it's intensive, intensity and, the urgency of the artists, I want to feel their urgency, I want to feel they have to do this, they have to tell it. And no matter how specific and weird and nerdy, whatever the subject is. If we feel like this is something urgently important for them to share, and they bring it into some kind of universal language, then I'm in. I'm in, and I follow them anywhere.

And, well there's filmmakers from the past like Krzysztof [Kieślowski] [or even [Alfred] Hitchcock. And some of the French, I just watched some [Jean-Luc] Godard and that was still amazing. Weekend (1967) was so crazy, radical, beautiful.

And today. Maybe like everybody, I'm a real fan of Lanthimos. I love the Yorgos Lanthimos films. I think he's real, he feels like a comrade in this idea of doing experimental stuff, still really being as political and emotional and involved with characters and really trying to share it with audiences while wildly aesthetically experimenting. I really love what the Mexicans are doing, as I call them. I mean, especially Iñárritu and Cuaron. They're great. Yeah, I'm a big fan. I follow Quentin [Tarantino] anywhere.  Jacques Audiard has a new film out that sounds amazing. I want to see that. And I've always followed Lars von Trier anywhere he goes. Yeah. I go to the weirdest places with him and I enjoy it.


You have to trust him on those, definitely. And last one, so as you mentioned, Run Lola Run is over 20 years old now. It's been paid homage to, it's been parodied, everything. Are there any misconceptions about the movie that bother you? Are there any themes that you feel like people should pay more attention to?

No, I think it's been really received, probably the movie that has been received most coherent with what it appeared to have been my intentions if I even remember correctly what they were then. But, because we did a new transfer, I was able to watch it again after really 20 years or so. And I was quite surprised how much of it is still feeling like a well alive and kicking movie. It's put on there. It doesn't feel like an older hunky film from those days, because maybe, first of all, because Berlin is still basically, this kind of unfinished mess of a city that she runs through, and the energy of the place is really similar.

Secondly, because the music, which I think in between was pretty out and nobody was listening to that kind of electronic stuff. I mean, this style — it has had a comeback in the last five years. So you couldn't play this stuff in a club again. It was really out and now it's back. So the movie feels good in music terms. And then there's Franka. And Franka is just... overwhelming. She's such an amazing natural presence. And you can't just stop watching her and I'm telling you with a new transfer, she is glowing.

I'm sure people are gonna be rushing into the theaters to see it again. It's such a great film. And thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.