Formalism over Realism: An Analysis of Run Lola Run using Arnheim’s Critic





Formalism over Realism: An Analysis of Run Lola Run using Arnheim’s Critic


There are two theoretical approaches used in the production of films. These are the formalist and realist approaches. Realist theories see cinema as a humanist phenomenon where human natures in emotions reign supreme over the technicalities employed to develop the essence of the film. The formalist theory argues against realism in placing importance on formal and technical elements of production. The critic of Arnheim narrates that the cinema in its narrations is an idealistic phenomenon where human depictions lie connected with the technicalities employed to develop the messages and sceneries. The objective of production is to induce certain emotions and responses from the audience through the message in a film. In this, the purpose or function of production is a technical function based on message conveyance processes. The formalist theory is better than the realist theory because it incorporates both artistic and ideological divisions of production. Formalist approaches in their integration of socio-economic constraints in its style provide a better way to communicate on a film’s theme, ideas, and emotions.

Analysis of Formalism in Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run is a German film that narrates on the struggles of a female character (Lola) in her quest to generate a sum of money failure in which her love (Manni) becomes executed. The movie in its search narrative is run through to a tragic end that the audience identifies as the end only for the same show scenes to be played once more in a manner similar to what was given ten seconds prior to the fatal end. During the two looping sequences, there is a central hued bridge in the narrative. This bridge is an example of the formalist approach. Run Lola Run can be analyzed through the Mise-en-scene function that centers on four elements in production. The film employs a central time travelling function that is used to develop three alternative outcomes that are at times looping within the same opening (Speidel 11). Integrated within the hued bridge, time travel is the central function that the analysis will follow together with the Mise-en-scene to identify the significance of formalism in film production.

Formalism highlights vital dramaturgical plots that employ different prolongs to underline its style of editing. In detail, a scene employs various camera angles to extend the play instance in order to lengthen the feeling state in the audience (Speidel 12). For instance, the scene when the main character is on the telephone deep in thought as to why the lover would be so troubled. As the actor discovers a plastic bag filled with money, the audience is pulled to a repeating line of self-conversation, “The Bag! The Bag!” The instance of self-realization is shot using different angles elevating emotional conveyance of how the character is feeling to the crowd. According to Hood, the production style is referred to as “a feeling state” where emotional works are refined in postproduction in order to lengthen the peak of a scene proportionally elevating the autonomous and pulsating effect passed to the spectator (Hood 3).

A combination of time elements including music, clip edits, speed, and motions are applied as key devices in the development of essence. Consider a part in the film when Lola finds herself running into a corner of a street where she finds a card and starts reading it. As she begins to read the card, a series of white and black images come to screen conversing that the writer of the card will lose her child to social services. During the same scene, the audience joins present, past and future parts of the movie. The animation black and white images move fast in order to pass the frantic shock that Lola is feeling as she reads the card. Another example is in the scene where the homeless character finds a bag of money and moves down the stairs of the station. With every step down the flight of stairs, there is a series of interloping building and tourist images in a panoramic splice. The interloping images converse on the flow of thoughts that the homeless man is having over his new economic status (Hood 3). The buildings and tourist images are a representation of his fantasies running in an excited manner. To the audience, the images condition the scene to reality.

Run Lola Run in its non-linear approach transitions the film in and out between and a story and a video game. Lola is a character on the run while Manni is the end bounty. Study shows that audience interaction and familiarization is higher in video games as compared to films (Pezzotta 106). In this, the formalist emphasis on technique makes Run Lola Run a more gripping narrative. In addition, the non-linear representation of time where Lola is divided into three divergent stories elevates the gripping feel. After the telephone conversation, the film shows three versions of Lola. In one version the character dies, in the other it is Manni while in the third Lola is successful. The three versions are run in a sequential manner, repeated, but revealed divergently. Time shown in a chronological sequence together with the non-linear representations facilitate the development of one the major themes which is chance (Pezzotta 106). Equally, the techniques develop the theme of choices. Each chance comes with associative choices developing complexity in the movie. Instead of a plot that transitions to an inevitable conclusion, there are mixes of drama throughout the journey to the end.


Run Lola Run is a film that effectively communicates on its central themes and messages. The movie is about a character in the race to save her lover’s life therefore making speed play central in production. In this, the film has effectively employed a pulsating soundtrack, minimal dialogue, and maximum movement developing an atmosphere marked with high levels of kinetic energy. Throughout the film, dynamic styles of editing, manners of cinematography, music and sound are aligned with the rush or goal of the central character. The pace of the beats, angle of the movements and energetic rhythms of the conversations end up vital in the structuring of the spectator experience with the narrative. It is evident that the formalist approach to film production demands and develops a new form of viewership. Techniques used under the formalist theory detach themselves from the film and migrate to the neural activity of the audience in an attempt to puzzle them together. This process familiarizes the spectator with whatever the film is conversing on and equally elevates memory recall of interconnected scenes. Greater levels of familiarization and comprehension generate higher levels of spectatorship appreciation and pleasure validating the essence in the formalist approach.



Works Cited

Hood, Andrew. Reassessing Soviet Theories of Montage in our Post-Modern Age. Postmodernism and Popular Culture. 2.12. 2005. 1-24. Print.

Pezzotta, Elisa. Personal Time in Alternative and Time-Travel Narratives: The Cases of Groundhog Day, 12 Monkeys and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Alphaville Journal of Film and Screen Media. 2. 2011. 1-13. Print.

Speidel, Suzanne. Film Form and Narrative. Approaches to Studying Film Texts. 1.1. 2006. 1-29. Print.



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