Saturday, July 5, 2014

why i still keep coming back instead of runnin'

Yesterday, I watched Somewhere in Time before watching Groundhog Day. I managed to write the entirety of the entry before Groundhog Day really got going. Today, I watched Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt) and am now watching Groundhog Day. Subtitles and a much faster pace than Somewhere in Time kept me from typing anything until now, ten minutes into Groundhog Day. I say this to point out how little things affect bigger things. That's a major element of Run Lola Run, which doesn't involve a time loop, per se, but does involve just over 20 minutes of time repeating twice. The big thing hidden in the smaller moments of the film is that tiny changes in our interactions can lead to big changes in the lives of others--chaos theory, the butterfly effect, whatever you want to call it.

The basic premise: Lola's boyfriend Manni just lost 100,000 Deutsch Marks he's supposed to be handing off to a guy named Ronnie--something to do with organized crime and diamonds--who will kill him if he doesn't have the money. Lola has 20 minutes to get the money for Manni or he's going to rob a nearby supermarket to get it. So she runs. Thrice.

She bumps into (sometimes literally) a handful of people along the way each time, and each run the timing is a little different so the effect is a little different. The film offers flashes forward in the form of a series of stills of these background characters' lives going into the future. For example, in the first run, we see a woman with stroller (her name, just to offer the first connection with Groundhog Day, is Doris) who Lola bumps into. Flash forward and this woman has her baby taken away from her so she steals someone else's baby. In the second run, the collision between Lola and Doris is timed a little differently, and the flash forward shows Doris winning the lottery. Third run and Lola's timing is better, she doesn't even collide with Doris, just runs past her. In the flash forward, Doris finds religion and becomes a nun. There isn't necessarily an exact logic to the way the interactions lead to the specific results, but the points is made quite strongly how tiny changes lead to big effects...

That's chaos theory.

With a lot of imagery of spirals and a lot of running, Run Lola Run makes for a very energetic take on playing with the flow of time to make a point. Choices have power, even the little choices. I'd seen it before, back in '98--

and, for the record, I have seen Somewhere in Time many many times because it was on one of those first VHS tapes my family had

--but watching it again made me think of the early episodes of Joan of Arcadia or that episode of John from Cincinnati ("His Visit: Day Five") in which John explains how all the characters and events link together in a semi-cryptic monologue. Like the "god day" scene at the Tip Top Cafe combined with the Groundhog Day Banquet dance, all the connections all at once.

Run Lola Run begins with some quotations:

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot

"After the game is before the game." - S. Herberger

The first implies, to me, that all life is learning. Time loop, no time loop, each day is an opportunity to connect and to learn. And, in the end, we depart the world to leave it as it was before us... I said something similar yesterday:

we come into the world, but the world is already moving along just fine without us, we do our part, leave what mark we can, and when we die, the world will move along just fine without us once again. Individually, we are but a blip on its radar

Each moment in Run Lola Run is important, but each moment is also irrelevant except inasmuch as it affects each other moment. And each of us is irrelevant except inasmuch as we affect other lives...

Tonight, on the way home from watching fireworks--it was July 4th as I started writing this entry, Independence Day in these United States--my daughter and I were talking about purpose, and I tend toward a view that many people see negatively, a depressing view, but it doesn't depress me, it inspires me. I figure there is no purpose to life, no inherent purpose anyway. But that is not a dark thought. It means that each of us can choose our purpose and live our life according to it.

The second quotation implies, to me, that there is no end to any singular event. Hersberger was a German soccer coach. Taken literally, his quotation means that as soon as this game ends, the next one has already begun. In larger terms, this goes back to the idea that each individual moment is both vitally important and entirely irrelevant. Like Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, a lot of tiny parts that only become something when combined. Hell, like the TV image of Phil Connors reading a book at the Tip Top Cafe as I type this. If I look close, I will no longer see Phil Connors, just separated blobs of color.

Each choice you make--good, bad--is just one small thing. But one small thing can make or break the world around you.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to break the world around me... then make it over again... then rinse, wash and repeat.

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