© NEUE VISIONEN Filmverleih GmbH

LOLA (Lola)
Ireland/U.K. 2023

Opening 28 Dec 2023

Directed by: Andrew Legge
Writing credits: Andrew Legge, Angeli Macfarlane
Principal actors: Stefanie Martini, Emma Appleton, Rory Fleck Byrne, Hugh O'Conor, Aaron Monaghan

It’s 1941 in London, where two sisters, Thomasina (Stefanie Martini) and Martha (Emma Appleton) Hanbury have created a time machine called LOLA, which takes up much space and features a screen that looks like an old television. LOLA reports world news, past, present, and, amazingly, even future. Now the sisters listen to songs which have not yet been written and know which numbers won the lottery before the lottery has closed. It’s the beginning of World War II and Thom and Mars (their short names) send LOLA’s reports of future war events to the government of Great Britain, enabling it to organize its military against the Nazis, as well as prevent hurtful strikes upon the country. Naturally, this is a great help, until it isn’t. LOLA gives a false prediction which brings a catastrophe upon the nation. The sisters are arrested, becoming political prisoners who could be hanged for treason. Thom is desperate, Mars less so, then she has fallen in love with Sebastian (Rory Fleck Byrne), a policeman who was sent to oversee the girls.

In the end we learn who collected bits of film reels and then put them together for the story. Besides fictional archives we have real archives showing Nelson Mandela, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, and Mohammed Ali, to name a few of the many personalities who show up. This amazing 79-minute film has been shown at many film festivals, including the Filmfest Hamburg in the fall of 2023. I highly recommend a viewing. Not only is the plot interesting, but the work is special, being short, artistic, and made to appear to be stuck together from bits and pieces of old film material. Showing it in black and white makes it more historical—after all this is the 1940s. Filmed in Ireland, this is Irish director Andrew Legge’s first feature film. (Becky Tan)

Second Opinion

Irish director Andrew Legge’s debut found-footage mockumentary Lola, co-written with Angeli Macfarlane, is ingenious, timely, enthralling, and thought-provoking. Time travel. Its story is on par with a dark Brothers Grimm cautionary tale: two precocious girls raise themselves in a semi-remote rambling old manor house on a diet of imagination, science, and creative freedom. Brilliant and eccentric, the fruits of their labors either “should be patented,” or defies their wildest expectations. A namesake for dear mama, LOLA, is christened the chronovisor in 1936. Currently, we are watching Martha’s harbinger to humankind, a film lovingly assembled from her home 8mm movies, newsreels compliments of LOLA, and 16mm celluloid she herself filmed.

Martha (Stefanie Martini) the inventor; her rapid-fire delivery describes their journey as evidenced by talking home movies. Older sister Thomasina (Emma Appleton), the engineer, gets credit for and coaxes the machine’s intercepts of random future radio and television broadcasts. LOLA’s great fun for gamboling across decades discovering fads, lifestyle changes, popular idols plus news events, e.g., they sing along with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, see Woodstock, and gamble on future events from Royal Weddings to Grand National races.

Living a blissful if not lean existence—a glimpse—and then the Blitz changes all that. To do nothing is too monstrous; Thom takes to the airwaves warning of bombing raids earning British survivors nickname, “Angel.” With the war escalating so does military intelligence curiosity; Lieutenant Sebastian Holloway’s (Rory Fleck Byrne) sleuthing uncovers the sisters; Cobcroft (Aaron Monaghan), his haughty commander takes undue credit. This idiosyncratic lifestyle—bathing in the living room and stabling the horse in the front hallway—and geniuses feed Sebastian’s starving mind. LOLA pulls its weight until, keenly aware, is put off by key players finagling of that better left au naturel.

The cast is brilliant, Martini and Appleton’s acting prowess mesmerizing. What is so ingenious and masterful about Legge’s Lola is the precision and detail of Colin Campbell’s acute editing in matching currently shot footage with archival/found footage, especially when the two are spliced together with historical events, and particularly scenes with Adolph Hitler. Oona Menges’s expressive cinematography harnesses the 16mm camera for its characteristics to recreate Martha’s incongruously offbeat movie. Ferdia Murphy’s production design, Vanessa Zanardo’s art direction, Lara Campbell’s costumes and Neil Hannon’s imaginative soundtrack add to the tactility of Lola. “Darling, can you save us?” Only LOLA can tell you. (Marinell Haegelin)

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