LOLA is a science fiction fuelled wartime film that feels like a capsule moment in time but in fact impacts the whole world over many years, technically. With a love story and family bond broken, the film’s human elements surround this marvellous machine and it’s pained creator who seems to both hate and love what they have done. LOLA isn’t an easy film to define, nor is its story, one that hasn’t quite been made before but not everything is perfect with this unusual film.
In 1941, recluse sisters Thomasina and Martha (Tom and Mars) build a machine called LOLA that can intercept radio and TV broadcasts from the future. While at first enjoying the music and images of the distant future, as WWII escalates, the sisters decide to us LOLA’s powers for good. Becoming known as the Angel of Portobello after alerting residents to potential bomb sites, the army locates and tries to shut down the sisters’ operation. But when LOLA proves useful, they decide to integrate their efforts in the war against the Nazis. However, one moment is all it takes to change the course of the future and not always for the better.
The atmosphere and tone of the film is set not by the characters but by the presentation. The film presents itself as ‘found footage’ and constructed using distressed black and white film, though the sound is of better quality. This is an inventive way of telling the story, purposely through a film lens at all times, giving the impression that someone is always holding the camera. This also allows for the machinery used for LOLA to be disguised as much older and more period appropriate than it would on a normal camera. This trickery actually helps through the film, making everything feel like it really is wartime Britain. Though effective, the format is difficult to watch for the full 78 minutes, it can be distracting and prevents from being fully immersed in the story.
The science fiction elements of the film are fascinating. Watching future events for fun, then using the machine for predictions in the war does make it feel akin to Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, which also tells the story of an alternate outcome to WWII. This story is more compact and focuses on the sisters’ relationship and bound, giving the story a human face to connect with as opposed to several characters across an empire.
Despite similarities to other stories, there is something original about LOLA and it’s not just in the way the film is shot. The story is able to capture tender moments as well as those of terror. Questions of morality are asked and answered, there is a challenge that is put to us watching and we can wonder, maybe LOLA predicted all of this, we just don’t know.
LOLA screened at Edinburgh International Film Festival