FrightFest presents LOLA.
Last year’s Fantasia Festival offered us the sublime Japanese micro-budget time travel picture Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes. Now FrightFest 2022 brings us a temporal paradox World War Two gem that provides a fascinating exploration of ethical reasoning, Andrew Legge’s LOLA.
Since the dawn of radio and television, the human race has been transmitting its music, culture, and news into the deep reaches of space. These signals have travelled far beyond the reaches of humankind and may have been found by other civilisations – a theme explored in Joe Dante’s underrated Explorers (1985). But time is not linear. Therefore, it’s more than possible a BBC news bulletin broadcast today will be watched by an alien race long after the earth has ceased to exist. Many argue that our entire notion of time is a human construct, so imagine if our future television broadcasts and radio transmissions were out there waiting to be found by someone or something that knew how to capture them.
READ MORE: BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES
In a brisk 79-minutes, Legge offers us one of the best temporal paradox movies of the past five years by concentrating his story on one question: if you could see the horrors yet to come, would you not have a duty to try and change the course of history? In 2021, a mysterious celluloid film was discovered in the cellar of a Sussex house that once belonged to Martha and Thomasina Hanbury (Stefani Martini and Emma Appleton). Held in this dusty can was a first-person account of the lives of two sisters who invented a machine that captured radio waves from the future, LOLA.
The towering LOLA sits in one of the sparse rooms of the sister’s country manor, offering a magical window into the future. Here Martha and Thomasina fall in love with David Bowie’s music, Kubrick’s films, and the dawn of equal rights. However, as World War Two comes into view, they also have a window into the horrors yet to come, from The Blitz to the march of fascism across Europe. Therefore, the sisters face a moral and ethical dilemma, do they use LOLA to intervene and save lives or keep the machine a secret? Martha and Thomasina opt to save lives and begin broadcasting the coordinates of future bombing raids, their anonymous radio messages saving countless lives. But the more you change the present, no matter how honourable your intentions, the more the future morphs into something unrecognisable.
READ MORE: WRECK
From the outset, LOLA isn’t interested in the concept of physical time travel, opting instead to explore the psychological and ethical questions that would come from seeing what is about to transpire. Culturally this leads Martha and Thomasina to sing songs yet to be written, create filming techniques yet to be invented and adopt language that is not a part of 1940s society. While these outcomes appear innocent, the sisters are already changing the course of history without considering the implications. But it’s their joint decision to change the path of the war that is genuinely fascinating. Here Legge’s film explores the differing ethics of both sisters as LOLA sparks a series of unforeseen events.
Tom believes in their intervention even if it changes the future; here, we are reminded of Spock’s classic line from the Wrath of Khan as he says to Kirk, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the needs of the one.” However, Martha soon comes to believe that changing the future, no matter the lives saved in the present, is wholly unethical. This places both sisters on a collision course as the world unravels around them in ways they couldn’t have foreseen when they turned LOLA on for the first time.
READ MORE: FRIGHTFEST BITES 2022
What plays out is a stunning take on the temporal paradox and the moral and ethical questions surrounding conflict and war. Here, Legge encourages his audience to consider their ethical position and feelings in a similar way to Stephen King’s The Dead Zone and 11.22.63 while also paying homage to the classic alternate timeline stories of The Man in the High Castle and The Small Change Trilogy.
The design and performances at the heart of this stunning indie gem are equally impressive. Here Oona Menges’ cinematography captures the style of Pathé, Gaumont and Movietone newsreels that would light up British cinema screens through a haze of cigarette smoke. With a feeling of authenticity that is rare in the found footage sub-genre, LOLA plays with our sense of reality through Tom and Mars’ language and their love of both sixties and seventies music. The result is a genuinely fascinating and engaging movie that demands multiple viewings as we walk alongside two women whose scientific genius may be their downfall. But time can be rewritten, right?
A genuinely fascinating and engaging movie that demands multiple viewings as we walk alongside two women whose scientific genius may be their downfall. But time can be rewritten, right?