German cinema hasn't exactly left a dent on the British box-office during the past decade - you could count the number of recent, outstanding German movies on one hand. Tom Tykwer's last film, Wintersleepers, was critically well-received, but hardly drew large crowds; however, his latest, Run Lola Run, promises otherwise. The concept is universal and the dialogue is suitably minimal, so the distraction-from-action subtitles are kept to a minimum - although the narrative becomes so absorbing that you'll forget you're watching a foreign movie.
Potente sprints through the streets, considering the options at breakneck speed, with her ever-changing futures flashing in front of the audience in snap-shot form. The pounding soundtrack pushes her forwards, beating in time with her pulse and echoing her thoughts (Potente also provides vocals for the various tracks). The timing and continuity is immaculate, with the adrenalised action switching from animation (for the opening sequence of Lola's runs), to video (for scenes without the main characters), to 35mm. Within each of these sequences other techniques are used: black and white shots are employed for the emotional scenes; while freeze-frames signal switches between the different characters.
You could foolishly dismiss it all as an arty mess - - but that would shortchange the movie drastically, because the human consequences of Lola's actions are never ignored. Her life - - and that of her lover - - rests on her decisions, but it is also influenced by any number of bystanders. The opening credits, in which faces are picked out of a crowd, illustrates this in such a way that suggests that all the characters could be of equal importance. Only time will reveal the level of each person's involvement.
Judging by the success of Sliding Doors, this concept is a compelling one. But the punkish Potente is a million hairdos away from Gwyneth Paltrow. Where the latter was all groomed blonde tresses and impeccable accent, Potente is a screaming shock-haired wild child with hidden frailty. And she runs better.