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LOCARNO 2022 Out of Competition

Review: LOLA


- Andrew Legge catapults us into a mysterious world where the past, the present and the future collide before imposing their own rules

Review: LOLA
Emma Appleton and Stefanie Martini in LOLA

Considered “Irish cinema’s best kept secret” by the artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival Giona A Nazzaro, Andrew Legge is now presenting his intriguing first feature film LOLA [+see also:
interview: Andrew Legge
film profile
at this very same Locarno-based event (Out of Competition), a movie-come-sci-fi fairy-tale in black and white, which urges us to think about the power of images and about film as a wonderful vehicle for opening viewers’ eyes to worlds they’re not yet familiar with.

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With elegance and a healthy dose of humour, LOLA pays tribute to film, to moving images as a repository of worlds in the making which materialise as if by magic right before our eyes. It’s the 1940s, and two sisters, Thom (Emma Appleton) and Mars (Stefanie Martini), have built a machine called LOLA (in honour of their mother who died when they were children) which can intercept radio and TV frequencies from the future. This allows them to listen to iconic songs (by David Bowie and Bob Dylan, first and foremost) before (ages before) they become global hits and to sample the revolutionary energy of punk or glam rock before these trends exist, in a future which suddenly becomes the present.

The Second World War is increasingly concerning and the two sisters decide to use LOLA to stop the Third Reich from imposing its rules to tragic effect. They make available the information they’ve intercepted from the future to the British intelligence services in order to thwart the German’s attacks. It’s a resounding success and the machine created by Thom and Mars turns out to be a hugely effective weapon which helps the British to block enemy forces. History seems to be magically transformed, thousands of lives are saved, and nothing seems to stand in the way of a now ineluctable victory.

However, as Thom grows ever more obsessed with LOLA, Mars seems to take stock of the potentially harmful consequences linked to a power which is hard to control. What would happen if the Nazis managed to sabotage their radio broadcasts, luring them into traps from which escape isn’t an option? What happens when you rewrite history according to your own rules?

By way of LOLA, Legge immerses us in a sci-fi universe with vintage undertones, a universe which is both true to its time - the 1940s - and steeped in fleeting yet intense anthology moments, stemming from a pop culture which becomes the film’s lifeblood. Because, as Mars reminds us, what would the world be like without David Bowie? A world dominated by banal, catchy pop songs which instantaneously vanish? No thanks!

The strength of LOLA lies in its well-balanced blend of dark and brutal subjects, such as the Third Reich, and moments of pure joy, where the two protagonists go wild, dancing and singing their favourite hits from the future. Once again, what would the world be like without the light-heartedness and liberating catharsis provided by music? Legge seems to be reminding us that the magic of cinema and the magic of music hinges on the feelings of those who allow themselves to be flooded, when tuned into a screen or the radio, by emotions which they didn’t think they could feel in real life.

Mars and Thom show us that all you need to do is change or replace a frame in order to end up with a story - a totally different story - and this is the real magic of the seventh art, the capacity it has to show us alterative worlds and truths which open our eyes, shake us up and change us deep down. Where does the truth lie? Where is the boundary between reality and fiction? The answer doesn’t really matter, what counts is the beauty of the present moment and our growing awareness of the diversity of a world which too many people would sooner have uniform and obedient.

LOLA is produced by Cowtown Pictures in co-production with ie ie Productions. International sales fall to Bankside Films.

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(Translated from Italian)

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