Written by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: September 12, 1998
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Christopher Nolan
WRITER: Christopher Nolan
MUSIC: David Julyan
“Following” is a 1998 black-and-white noir film that was made on a budget of $6000. It is also the film that introduced the world to Christopher Nolan, the man who would go on to make the cult film “Memento” as well as “Insomnia”, “The Prestige”, “Batman Begins”, and its even bigger sequel, “The Dark Knight”. The film’s story used a non-linear structure that Nolan would go on to use again in “Memento”, “The Prestige”, and “Batman Begins”.
The film took a year to finish due to its extremely low budget and the fact that the cast and crew had regular weekday jobs. To conserve the expensive filmstock, Nolan had all of the actors extensively rehearse their scenes so that by the time he began rolling, he could have only one or two good takes to use in the final cut of the film. He also used his friends and family’s flats as locations for the film.
The story involves an unemployed, struggling writer (Theobald). He develops a hobby of following people around. He does not want to do anything with them. He just wants to see what they do, where they go, and who they meet throughout the day. After that, he simply goes home.
However, one day, he is approached by one of the men he follows on a regular bases. The man turns out to be Cobb (Haw), a burglar who not only likes to rob from his victims’ flats, he likes to discover who they are by what they possess. Cobb convinces the writer to join along and the young man eventually begins to like it to the point where he finally starts doing a job on his own…
Or at least that is what it seems.
When I watched this film, I got the same feeling I did when I saw Nolan’s second film, the unforgettable “Memento”. The pace and the style of the shooting as well as the non-linear aspect of the story are very familiar to that found in “Memento”. Nolan proved with this film that he is a master storyteller when comes to the psychological thriller.
The filmmaking, however, feels like that of a man who is experimenting and trying to feel his way through a feature-length film. It is forgiving to see fights that are not convincing at all and to see uncontrollable shakiness in the cameras. Again,Nolan was a filmmaker making his first feature-length film.
Where Nolan truly exceeds is in the editing department. The film’s story intercuts through three specific moments of the writer’s life and gives the feeling that the audience is “following” the main character and learning more about him. This is what Nolan is truly exceptional at.
In each of his films, he has made us feel like the main character. In “Memento”, the film was edited to where it moved backwards making the audience feel like the main character who suffered from short-term memory loss. For “Insomnia”, it was a simple matter of pacing the film to where the audience felt like Al Pacino’s character whose world is slowing down due to a lack of sleep.
The film only suffers due to the fact that this is Nolan’s first feature-length film and the audience can definitely tell that it was shot on a budget. However, he proved with this film that he was a natural storyteller and a fantastic editor. The film is only 70-minutes long and not one single scene is wasted and the film comes to a satisfying conclusion.
On a side note, I couldn’t help but notice a brief bit of unintentional foreshadowing. When the writer and Cobb break into one of the apartments, there is a big Batman sticker seen clearly on the door. Little did Nolan know that he would later direct what we now know as “The Dark Knight Trilogy”.