27 Şubat 2011 Pazar

RUN LOLA RUN FILM ANALYSIS

Director: Tom Tykwer
Writer: Tom Tykwer
Stars: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup

THE ANALYSIS OF RUN LOLA RUN: MISE-EN-SCENE, CINEMATOGRAPHY, EDITING AND SOUND
       In this paper, I want to talk about the main techniques used in making a film. Mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing and sound are the most important of these techniques. These techniques include different elements in themselves like mise-en-scene includes setting, costume, lighting and cinematography includes camera angles and movements. In order to understand these techniques, their elements and the usage of them, I want to analyze a well-known 1998 German film, Run Lola Run in terms of these techniques and the elements included in them. The film was directed by Tom Tykwer and the protagonist, Lola, is acted by Franka Potente. Moritz Bleibtreu acted the Manni character in the film.
       Our film, Run Lola Run, is a great example of narrative form. It includes all elements of narrative in itself. We have an event, namely Lola’s trials to save her boyfriend from a dangerous situation. We have a specific time, namely twenty minutes because what we are shown is different versions of these twenty minutes. We also have a strong cause and effect relationship in the film, actually whole film is constructed on cause and effect relationship. Since the film represents us the different choices can lead different consequences, we are left with a chain of cause and effect relationship. The plot covers everything the spectator sees and hears in a film. Run Lola Run’s plot covers only a part takes place in twenty minutes of Lola’s life but with three different versions. The plot is a kind of goal-oriented plot. Because what we see through the film is all about to save Lola’s trials to save her boyfriend. However, we infer other things from this plot which are included in the story of the film. For example, we understand from several scenes that Lola does not have a good relationship with her family. We also infer from what her father said in the first part of the film that Lola is not a kind of daughter that he wanted. The narrative drive of the film, I think, divided in three because of the replay of the same twenty minutes. In the first two trials, we are confronted with a conflict, a trial for solution but in the end we get no resolution. On the other hand, the last trial follows the classical form which starts with conflicts and ends with the resolution of the conflict and a different order again. Narrator, of course, has an important role in narrative structured films. The narrator can be in three ways: limited, omniscient and unreliable. I think Lola is a great example of limited narrator. Since what we are shown as trials of her saving her boyfriend are also her trials. She did not know the consequences she could get from those trials before she tried. So, both the audience and the character know the same thing and experience the same things simultaneously. 
        Another important element of a film is mise-en-scene, of course. Mise- en- scene basically includes setting, lighting, costume, make-up, props and usage of color, and also acting. The overall mise-en-scene of has always been in an interaction with cinematography. Still, in this paper, I will analyze them separately. First of all, I want to start with looking at setting. Setting is a very important element of a film because it gives a lot of meanings to narrative itself. Sometimes the notions that cannot be given by actors are given by setting. The location represented in the film should have some meanings in order to complete what is necessitated by narrative. The locations represented in Run Lola Run are basically are Lola’s room, the square where Lola and her boyfriend will meet, the way Lola uses to reach there in which several streets, bridges are included, the bank in which Lola’s father is working, and the casino where Lola gains the money in the end. Each of these locations has meanings in themselves. I think, there is nothing unusual in these locations, they seem very realistic. The choice of Germany as the local of the film has a special reference in itself. The film is all about to manage a work in a specific time and Germans have always been famous for their being punctual. The bank where Lola’s father is working is also important because she went there to find a big amount of money for her boyfriend. The film always represents these kinds of locations, a much used supermarket, a casino, a bank in which we can find huge amounts of money. The bank and the casino especially represented in a very luxurious way in which Lola seems a little bit awkward because of her costume. In order to represent this luxuriousness, characters were wearing suits, there are bodyguards and securities at the gate, the buildings are very impressive in their outer appearances like they are old, historical, multi storey buildings. The inside of the buildings are decorated richly and the people inside seem elite. Only the supermarket is not the way I mentioned above however its being much used is apparently stated in the phone call of Lola and Manni. The room of Lola is designed in a way that we can immediately infer her features. She is a bit messy and irresponsible. The streets are also designed in a way that the spectator is always exposed to how fast Lola run to reach somewhere. She is always shown with certain vehicles like train, ambulance or bicycle while running. There are always clocks and other things like dominos in the TV (00:10:46) represented in the film as the signifiers of time. The big clock above the supermarket, old woman who is asked by Lola about the time in front of the bank, Lola’s own clock in her room are some of these props used in film.
       Another important element of mise-en-scene is costume and make-up. Most of the films these two supplement each others. Costume and make-up play an important role in defining the characters in a narrative. The most important aspect of costume is obviously color. Using specific colors on characters in a film may highlight different meanings. Since it is the most interesting point in the film, I want to start with Lola’s bright, messy, red hair. Since it is the color of anxiety and energy, red is very suitable for the content of the film. Lola’s unending run to save his boyfriend obviously requires a special physical energy. It is also too exhaustive for the spectator to follow Lola throughout the film. This energy is given to the audience by the color red. This red is also keeping the spectator’s anxiety about whether she can manage it or not in the highest level.[1]  Actually red is constantly used in the movie. The telephone in Lola’s room which is the signifier of the start of action also makes the audience feels anxious. The red plastic bag in the scene in which Lola is shot serves the same purpose too (00:30:33). Besides the use of color specifically; the overall costumes are not so much stylized or exaggerated in the film. As the signifier of richness and prestige, the suits are used. Lola’s rings, ear piercings, tattoo and costume displays her punk-like style. Her hair, besides being red, is also a signifier of her indifferent aspect. Manni is also portrayed as a junk, irresponsible, penniless and clumsy character. He made some telephone calls when he waits for Lola to find the money, however he can find only 500 Marks whereas he needs 100.000 Marks. So, the spectator clearly understands that he does not come from a rich family or social environment. He also clearly says Lola on the phone that he cannot do anything without her help. Obviously, in all of his dirty businesses, Lola is the one who saves him.
       The lighting of the film is very important to emphasize certain actions. By highlighting or using shadows, lighting can put the things or characters forward or hide them and create a mystical sense. In a film, the direction of the lighting and color of the lighting, quality and source of the lighting are very important. They both impose different meanings to the narrative. In Run Lola Run, most part of the film, we see the use of high key lighting. The usage of lighting seems very natural especially in the outdoor scenes, while Lola was running or Manni was waiting for her. It is like the noonday sun lighting which is named as hard light and shows every detail of the objects. Where as in the scenes where Lola was in her room (00:11:03), the usage of frontal lighting which comes directly to the Lola’s face is visible. It eliminates the shadow of Lola. We see a lamp hanging from the ceiling in Lola’s room which gives the impression that the light is coming from there. In the scene where Lola wants to enter her father’s room (00:18:00), we see both Lola’s and security officer’s cast shadows on the wall. There are some wall lamps in the bank, obviously Lola and security officer are in front of those lamps. Inside of the bank is a kind of dim place. This dim sense is given to the audiences with those small wall lamps giving amber light. The most effective use of light in whole film is obviously in the scenes in which Lola or Manni are about to die. They remember their conversation in a bed, possibly after making sex, given in red lighted shots. This usage of red is both a signifier of their sexual relationship, red is always seen as the color of eroticism, and the nervousness of the spectator about whether they will die or not.
       Although we said that, setting is sometimes more important than acting, it is clear that the spectator usually interested in with acting more. Costume and also the physical appearances of character are really very important parts of acting in a film. Actors’ performances both consists visual elements and sounds which I will discuss at the end of my paper. In the Run Lola Run, I think we should emphasize four types of acting: Lola’s, Manni’s, Lola’s father’ and his girlfriend’s. Starting with our protagonist, Lola throughout the film tries to give the impression of a punctual, overbold, rebellious kind of character. Actually, she did it successfully. Since the content of the film necessitates Lola’s running all the time, she must look in a sense athletic and energetic. Otherwise, the spectator cannot get the core of the film. From this perspective everything seems realistic and well-placed in the content of the film. On the other hand, we see Lola as an emotional, faithful and self-sacrificing lover. In her telephone call wit Manni, she explicitly promises him that she will be there in twenty minutes and save him (00:09:42). When Manni is hit by the ambulance, her facial expression is really effective in the sense that she lost her most precious creature (00:51:41). I talked about her not being a very fond of family character. However, in the scene where her father says her that she is an adopted child, she seems very frustrated, cries all the way to the exit (00:22:57). On the other hand, Manni’s acting is also very convincing to get his place in the film. He loves Lola too; the spectator understands it clearly when Lola is shot. Moritz Bleibtreu really reflects the coward side of Manni very well by his shaking voice and despair by calling everyone in panic. Another interesting point in the film is the secret affair of Lola’s father and his colleague. It is like he acts in a way to cover his immorality by treating Lola violently and the woman, in a sense, like shocked when she learns that Lola is his daughter. Although Lola’s father seems very aggressive and cruel, when Lola threatens him with weapon, he is in a sense seemed very scared. One last point to state in acting is the homeless man obsessed with plastic bags and takes Manni’s forgotten one from the train. He seems so unconscious from what happened that he even changes the bag full of money with the little gun (01:10:21). Camera techniques may help acting in a film. We are always shown the image of clock to be able to follow Lola’s acting. As long as we are shown the clocks, our attention is directed to Lola’s running. Camera angle also helps us to see the acting of characters in an effective way but I will discuss these points in the cinematography part of my paper. In Run Lola Run, we see a lot of close ups to go in the details of characters’ facial expressions. Especially on the telephone conversation scenes, camera shows us both Manni’s and Lola’s facial expressions in close ups. We become more and more anxious about what is going to happen because they have anxiety in their faces.  Acting can be considered as a good performance if the characters look and behave the way the film necessitates. I think, in Run Lola Run, this is achieved successfully.
        Although it is a colored film, we are given the memories about how he forgets the bag full of money and goes into trouble of Manni, with black and white shots. This gives the impression of flashback to the spectator.  When we look the compositional balance throughout the film, I want to emphasize four parts: scenes while Lola was running, in Lola’s room, Manni in the call box and Lola in her father’s office. In the scenes where Lola and Manni are talking on phone, they are shown in close ups, as filling the whole screen. The simplest way of creating compositional balance is centering the frame on the character. In Run Lola Run, this is usually done. When Lola thinks to whom she should go to find the money (00:11:07) and when she is shot (00:30:31), this usage of balancing is obviously clear. In the scenes where Lola is running, our attention is directed to Lola immediately because the moving object always attracted our attention most. She is usually kept on the centre of the screen even while she is running. We usually see Manni from the inside of the phone box. The phone box is either placed at the centre of the screen or gradually brought to that angle by the camera. Most of the time in the film, the characters are shown clear in front of a blurry background. Especially in close ups, this is really obvious.
         From now on, I talked about the mise-en-scene elements of films and how they are used in Run Lola Run through giving some specific examples from the scenes. Now, I want to focus on what is cinematography, and how its elements are reflected to us.  While doing this, I want to give the meanings implicit in the structure of cinematography.
        Cinematography literally involves the control of lighting and operation of camera. Shot sizes, angles, levels, length and also focusing are included in cinematography. There are various uses of different shot sizes in the Run Lola Run. This makes the viewer both get the notion of wholes and also particulars in detail. I want to start with what is an extreme long shot, why it is important and in which parts of the Run Lola Run it is included. Extreme long shots basically give the spectator the notion of the physical environment, context of the action. It can show the landscape or buildings from outside. Characters are usually very small or there are no characters at all. The details are not visible because the purpose is to give the whole context of action. In the opening scene of Run Lola Run (00:04:40), an establishing shot is used and it rapidly gets smaller until it becomes a close up. This gives the audience the notion of meeting with environment, where the film takes place and how it is portrayed. The building of the bank in which Lola’s father is working is given in an extreme long shot too (00:18:35). Most of the scenes in which Lola is running are also shot in an extreme long shot to show the whole streets that Lola runs. Long shot is used to show all standing people, entire objects in a relation with the environment they are in. It is obviously more detailed than extreme long shot. Lola is shown in long shot when she is running in order to show both she and her position in the streets. In the scene where Lola hits the woman with baby carriage, it is shown in a long shot to highlight both Lola’s running and her hitting the woman. Medium shot is used to show characters from waist up. More details are visible in these shots. Small groups can be shown by medium shots. On the other hand, if there are two people, it is called two shot, if three then it is called three shot. The scene where Lola wants money from the cashier is an example to medium shot (00:44:51). Lola and Manni’s flashbacks to the scene where they lie in the bed and talk can be considered as over the shoulder shot because in this shot characters are shown over shoulder. It is mostly common in conversation scenes. As long as Run Lola Run is a film in which there are certain props like clock, plastic bag and telephone  and a lot of telephone conversation scenes in which the facial expressions are very important to get the emotions of both characters, the use of close ups are very common. Moreover, there are some usages of extreme close ups too. When Lola thinks about people whom she can borrow the money, the inner voice and thoughts of her are given to us by close ups. Especially, the scene when we are made understood that the best candidate for borrowing money is her father with constant close ups to her father is very effective (00:11:20). The transition between shots are constantly given in an order like from an establishing shot through long and medium shots to close ups like in the opening scene or vice versa. Sometimes, some of these shots are given together like from a medium shot to close up (00:52:18).
       Long takes are used mostly in the scenes while Lola was running in order to make the audience follow her. Since whole film is about whether she can arrive in twenty minutes or not, following Lola is the core of the film. On the other hand, long takes are sometimes cut by showing Lola from different angles, leaving her behind the walls or some other objects and also other people whom Lola encounters while running (00:13:11- 00:14:06).
       Since there are people who need some help from others, it is very usual to use high and low angle of camera. High angle is mostly used to reduce the importance of the subject and patronize the subject. When Lola asks her father for the first time to help her, she is shown from a high angle in order to make the spectator grasp her being helplessness (00:20:14). There is also the use of bird’s eye view shots in the film. The camera looks directly from the top to the bottom. In the gambling roulette wheel is shown from a bird’s eye view shot (01:07:25) and also when Manni is shot, he is also shown by that angle (00:52:00). In the scene when Lola was holding the gun in the supermarket, she is shown from a low angle as the symbol of the power (00:28:47). Deep focus is sometimes used in the Run Lola Run in order to emphasize some particular details. For example in the gambling seen, the spectator needs to see the number Lola had played and whether or not she will win. So, the numbers are shown with deep focus (01:07:29) and (01:08:20). Selective focus is also used to reduce other details’ importance and highlight the main character. In the scene when Lola was running near the river, we almost cannot specify what is in the background since it is blurred. We just focus on Lola’s face (00:14:05). Throughout the film, I think, the most different image is the one which is shot in the Lola’s father’s office, while he and his girlfriend were talking. The image is different from the rest of the film in terms of its camera movement. It is so much shaky and distorted like it is shot by a hand-held camera. It is like prying their secret affair from a hidden camera. Pans are used to give the audience the sense of seeing the action or character from a 360 degree angle. It is also done in one scene when Lola was thinking about to whom she can borrow the money to show the confusion of her mind and searching of her friends and family members. Split screen is also used in several times and each usage serves the same purpose. One side of the screen the spectator is shown Manni waiting for Lola and the other side shows Lola as running. The tension in the spectator grows more and more about whether Lola could catch him before he robs the market or not (00:50:23). Then, a few seconds later, the screen splits another part which is an extreme close up of a clock (00:50:50).
          Editing is the most important element in making a film because by editing the shots are put in a meaningful way. So, what the spectator watches is the order of shots done by editor. So, the editor decides what the spectator should see and how long they should look at it. Time and space are the main features of continuity in editing. One way to achieve the continuity in editing is by using master shot. By master shots, the spectator is first given the sense of surrounding and then they are shown a close up, finally they are shown a master shot too. By this way, the audience gets the sense of surrounding and makes relations of characters in that surrounding (00:48:00) and (00:49:11). This is very important to get the cause and affect relationship between the events and characters. Normally, in editing to keep the continuity, there is a 180° rule meaning that camera should not have cross the line of action when two shots are edited together. If it changes position by violating 180° rule, then there will be a jump cut which seems weird. In one scene of Run Lola Run, there is this kind of violation of this rule (00:12:37). The left side of Lola seems like the right side in the next shot, this is a total confusion. Moreover, in the following shot, jump cuts are used intentionally to create a discontinuity in editing. As a mean of continuity editing, eye line matches are used in Run Lola Run severally. The audience always wants to see what the character sees in the shot. That is why eye line matches are used. In the first shot we have the character looking at something off screen, then we have a cut showing what he or she sees, then we see the reaction of our character based on what he sees (00:39:47). There is another kind of shot which provides continuity in editing. It is named as shot reverse shot. This is commonly used in conversation scenes which are so much used in Run Lola Run (00:20:16).
       Temporal continuity is achieved mostly with sound in Run Lola Run. It is easy to see this because there is an ongoing music playing in the background in relation with the visual rhythm. When Lola hits the woman, we see some freezing shots from the woman’s life. But, since the music continues, we infer that Lola is still running. Indeed it is shown that Lola keeps running after these freezing shots. In the first run, when Manni told Lola what happened to him in train, shown by black and white shots as flashback, the music also continues so that we understand they are still talking. Run Lola Run starts with a huge cut in as I mentioned above, in the cinematography part. It starts with an aerial shot and we are gradually gone into the room of Lola and cut in ends with the close up to the telephone that starts ringing.
      The editing pace of Run Lola Run is very different in different parts of the film. For example in the scenes where other characters’ lives are shown as freezing shots, the length of the shots are so tiny that we see the scene with very fast and intense pace. On the other hand, the film also uses slow editing pace to make the spectator focus on that particular scene. Since by using editing the editor tries to take the audience’s attention to particular scene, that scene should have a certain meaning or give rise to a certain emotions. Both in the scenes where Lola and Manni are shot, the gradual burst of the red bag and the fall of the green bag are given in a slow pace to show the sensibility of the scenes. Dissolves are also used to give the transitions in the film. In the flashback when Lola and Manni were talking in the bed, the end of scene dissolves and integrates with the eyes of shot Lola in the present time (00:34:24). There is also a certain scene which is worth to state, I think. The transition to the restart of the run is given by a graphic match between the falling red plastic bag and the red telephone receiver which was also the beginning of the first run (00:34:40). Freeze frames are also used to show the life of characters Lola encounters on the street while running. They are given as photographic images to the audience to show some sections of their lives. In each runs with different choices, their lives are obviously too different (00:13:14), (00:36:28).
        Sound is another important technique of film. Main sounds in the Run Lola Run are given by dialogues including face to face dialogues and telephone conversations. On the other hand, there is a continuous music throughout the film. The film is so much energetic that it needs a very rhythmic music. This intense rhythm of visual elements in the film is combined with a techno soundtrack which is also as rhythmic as the visual elements. The lyrics of the soundtrack during the second run are like that:
Never, Never, Never, Never, letting go 
Never giving up, Never saying no 
Just go, go, I never stop 
I never think 
To do, do, do, the right thing 
I want to go 
I want to fight 
I want to rush 
I want to run 
I want to see you again 
under the setting sun 
We will kiss 
We will laugh 
We will be a part 
of what is said to be 
a union of the heart’ [2]
       So, we see that there is a perfect parallelism between the lyrics of the soundtrack and what is going on in the film. The techno soundtrack of the film directs our attention immediately to the steps of Lola when she is running. There is also another important aspect of the soundtrack. It includes some sounds like clock’s tick tock from the background. This is the sound motif used in this film. The high loudness and pitches of Lola’s scream in certain scenes are also important. In order to make it more underlined, it is strengthened by the visualization of breaking glasses. This is very obvious in the gambling scene and in the telephone conversation scene (00:09:29).Screaming is, most of the time, seen as the expression of boredom and aggressiveness. While creating soundtracks, like editing, there can be a mixing of sounds. It seems to me that the scream of Lola is not a pure human scream. It is like manipulated artificially. This can be done by the filmmaker to guide the audience’s attention. The intention with Lola’s screaming can be to emphasize the emotional state she is in. As I have mentioned above the continuity in space and time is given by the soundtrack throughout the movie. Although there are cuts between long takes, the spectator does not lose the sense that the running process is going on. When the spectator watches Lola’s mother’s telephone conversation, the rhythmic music which is associated with running keeps going on so does Lola(00:11:58). The soundtrack is mostly used in the scenes when Lola is running meaning when the action continues. Before the first run when Lola and Manni are talking on the phone, there is no music in the background. We just hear the natural environmental sounds. But after the run start, the music only stops in scenes where there is just conversation and no running. The usage of voice over is not used in this film. On the other hand, in some scenes, the spectator hears the voice of Lola, although she does not speak. The inner thoughts of Lola are given to us simultaneously as she talks to herself in her mind. These are diegetic sounds and help the audience to grasp the overall situation of Lola. The tick tock sound of clocks given in some scenes are also remembers the viewer that time is passing. This notion makes the viewer more curious and nervous about the end of the action.  



[1] Bellantoni, Patti, If it is purple someone’s gonna die, pg. 22, focal press

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