Have you ever heard of the phenomenon called the butterfly effect?
The term itself is in relation to meteorology and weather. The butterfly effect is defined as the sensitive dependence on initial conditions where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state.
Or, for those of you who are not scientifically minded (of which I myself am a person who does not understand many scientific principles), it basically means that the slightest change of variable can make the difference between having a small rainstorm and a hurricane that is capable of massive destruction.
The phrase was coined by American mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz, and the phrase was derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings just weeks beforehand.
I know what you're thinking. It seems incredibly farfetched and ridiculous to blame all the hurricanes and tornadoes on a single butterfly. Almost impossible, right? In most cases, yes, this theory seems crazy. But, if you really examine the theory at work, in particular in various works of pop culture, it really is a fascinating study.
Just think about it like this. Have you ever been in a situation that could have turned out incredibly different had you just gotten out of bed just one hour earlier? For example, consider this scenario. You're supposed to go to work for seven in the morning. Unfortunately, you end up hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock a half dozen times, and you end up waking up at 6:59. Clearly, you're late for work, and you're struggling to get showered, and get your clothes on, and out the door, all the while blaming yourself for being late in the first place.
So, imagine your shock and horror when you realize that as you pull up to the parking garage at work that there are fire trucks parked outside of your office building. The entire floor where your office was located is ablaze. It is there that you find out that an electrical fire on your floor started a fire, which resulted in an explosion that caused all the offices to burst into flame. And, it is there that you find out that the explosion took place at the precise moment that you were supposed to clock in for work. Would that not be a situation where you step and and look at how incredibly lucky you were? If you were living that situation for real, and realized that had you not hit the snooze button so many times, you more than likely would have been french fried in your very office?
That's the type of scenario that could best describe “the butterfly effect” in movies and television programs. How somebody's entire life can change completely just by being in the right place at the right time in the right moment. Sometimes, the change could result in improving your life. Other times, it could start the death countdown. And, what about the various people who you bump into on your travels? How would their lives differ as a result of this?
Today's blog topic deals with a movie that explores exactly that. What happens if you're caught in a situation that starts off the same way? Supposing that a loved one gets themselves in a precarious position, and you have a limited amount of time to fix the problem and help out your loved one. But when time is of the essence, every minute counts.
We're going to take a look at one woman's quest to save her boyfriend from harm by helping him do one task that could save his life. Actually, we see three different attempts by the woman to be able to help her love get out of the mess he got himself into, and in all three attempts, something different happens at the beginning of her journey that changes the outcome of the eventual ending.
Remember how I said that I was going to spotlight a wider variety of films for the Monday Matinee posting this year? Well, as it turns out, this week's feature presentation comes to us from the country of Germany. While the film itself is in German, there are versions available with English subtitles, so it'll make it a bit easier to follow along with the already complicated storyline of the film.
The film is the 1998 film, “Run Lola Run”. Released in Germany in the summer of 1998 and worldwide the following year, the film starred Franka Potente in the role of Lola, a woman desperate to help her boyfriend, Manni (Moritz Bliebtreu). “Run Lola Run” was issued in Germany with the title “Lola Rennt”, and was filmed entirely in the city of Berlin. The movie itself was critically acclaimed, with the film being nominated for 41 awards total between 1998 and 1999. Of the 41 awards, it ended up winning over half of them, with twenty-six wins. Some of the accolades the film won were the Audience Award given out by the Sundance Film Festival, Best Film at the Seattle International Film Festival, and won seven awards at the German Film Awards. Actress Franka Potente also earned positive reviews for her performance in the film, earning a Bambi Award (Germany's oldest media award) in 1998 for her portrayal of Lola.
I first saw “Run Lola Run” in a college film studies class. If I remember correctly, it was the very first movie that we studied in that class. And, while it was a film that I had trouble understanding at first, eventually I managed to put the pieces together and I realized what an interesting film it was.
As “Run Lola Run” begins, we see Lola at what is presumably her home receiving a phone call. It's Manni, her lover. But, unfortunately, there's no time for lovey-dovey chit chat or “I love yous”. Manni is in a bind. No, actually it's worse than that. Manni made such a boneheaded mistake that his whole life is in danger unless he can right the terrible wrong that he caused.
You see, Manni's occupation isn't exactly all that respectable. He is your everyday, common criminal. And, apparently, common criminals seem to attract the attention of German lasses with flame red hair. But that is beside the point. Manni's criminal ties have come back to bite him in a big way. He was supposed to hand over 100,000 marks (which was the official currency of Germany at the time the movie was filmed) to his crime boss, but accidentally left the money behind on a train. What made the situation even more dire was that Lola was supposed to pick him up at the train station, but ended up being unable to, as her moped was stolen while she was out purchasing cigarettes.
(Let this be a lesson to you...cigarettes can be hazardous to your health in more ways than one.)
Anyway, Manni relays the problem. He has to get the money to his boss. Problem is, he doesn't have it. Even bigger problem? He has only twenty minutes to deliver the money to his boss. If he fails, his life is over. The only clue he has to go on was that he saw a homeless man take the bag with the money in it, but the train left before Manni could go back inside to retrieve the bag. So, Manni's under the assumption that the money is gone forever.
Fortunately, Manni has a plan to try and fix the situation. Though, considering that Manni left one hundred thousand marks on a train carelessly, it can be said that any plan Manni has would undoubtedly end in failure. And on paper, Manni's plan sounds really ballsy and stupid. He plans to rob a supermarket of all their money, and from there he would have the necessary funds to pay back his boss...
...and risk going to jail or getting killed in the robbery attempt. But, again, this idea is from a man who has acted carelessly within the first five minutes of the film.
It seems at though Lola, at least, appears to understand the seriousness of Manni's situation, and comes to the intelligent conclusion that the way that Manni plans to get himself out of trouble is not exactly the best way. Lola's plan seems much better. Considering that her father is a banker, she believes that she can convince him to lend her the money.
And, so, Lola's journey begins. All three of them.
It is here that the story gets a bit complicated. We see Lola rushing to help Manni out as best she can, but we see three different outcomes, which are based on the variables surrounding Lola exiting her apartment.
Therein lies the butterfly effect that is prominently displayed throughout the course of the film. How one insignificant event can cause the lives of so many to change based on the actions that the protagonist takes.
Sure enough, in each of Lola's three journeys, the opening differs. In the first one, Lola sprints past a hoodlum with a nasty looking dog. The second one shows Lola tripping over the dog, causing her to have a temporary limp. In the third one, Lola actually leaps over the punk and his dog as she travels down the stairs of her building. As a result of this, each of the three scenarios start off with staggered times.
So, you can imagine that knowing this fact, you would expect three completely different endings to each of Lola's scenarios, right? Right. All three of Lola's journeys end in a drastically different way. And, of course, I'm not going to tell you how each one ends, because well...you know. But, I can offer this. One ending can be seen as good. One ending can be seen as bad. And, one ending is so absolutely bizarre that you will be looking at the screen going, “HUH?!?”
No, seriously, that was my reaction.
But, just going back to the genius of “Run Lola Run”, I thought that it was brilliant to have the story split off into three potential “What if” scenarios. Even more brilliant was that none of us knew which story was the true story. I suppose we could assume that the third and final arc was the real McCoy, but do we really know that?
The film also uses a lot of “flash-forward” scenes, depicting what the fates are of every person Lola happens to meet in each scenario, and once again, depending on what happened to Lola at the very beginning of each run, the fates of the people are different. For instance, take the woman who is pushing a baby stroller down the street. She makes an appearance in all three story arcs. In two of the three scenarios, Lola collides with the woman, while in the third one, they miss each other. Depending on what happened to Lola at the beginning, the fate of the woman drastically changes. In one, the woman ends up losing her baby to Child Protective Services, and she resorts to kidnapping another baby to make up for it. In another, the woman ends up finding a lottery ticket and winning a fortune!
We also see scenes involving Lola's father (who appears to be the biggest jerk in the world regardless of what story arc we are watching), the business associate of Lola's father (who oddly enough gets involved in a car accident in two of the three situations), and some random woman who happens to be walking by (who depending on the situation teeters between life and death).
Really, I recommend this film to everyone. Don't let the loud techno music beat and the fact that it is entirely in German stop you from watching this film. There's a reason why it was critically acclaimed, and there's a reason why I regard the film so highly. Part of it is due to the charm that Franka Potente displays in each one of the scenarios, but part of it is the unpredictability of the whole film. You literally don't know what is going to happen next!
So, go out and rent or download “Run Lola Run” today. I promise that you won't regret it. Who knows? Your watching the film might not only affect your life in a positive manner, but you never know what might change on the outside world...as “Run Lola Run” definitely proves.