Christopher Nolan’s ‘Following’ (Movie Review)

Every great movie director starts somewhere. Steven Spielberg first directed a made-for-TV movie called ‘Duel.’ Frances Ford Copolla worked movies with Roger Corman (who made many low-budget horror movies). So in the same approach of starting small Christopher Nolan began with a very low-key movie that he wrote and directed called “Following” (in 1999).

Following (1998) - Trailer - YouTube
Image Source: Google Images

‘Following’ is a low-budget movie. It is said that the total cost was under $10,000 dollars. But seeing this movie, the care that was put into it and professionalism in the style and in the overall approach to the film is quite evident. There is a large effort by a no-name cast and crew to create a very sophisticated film. This is Nolan’s first movie, and it contains some early aspects of his style that became more prominent in Nolan’s later work.

Plot Synopsis

The main plot concerns an unemployed would-be writer who amuses himself by following people that he sees in the street. He is discovered by one of his subjects, a man named Cobb. Bill (the writer) is taken aback by Cobb’s actions. He breaks into people’s homes and takes things. Cobb explains that his purpose is to take something away so that the people can understand the value of what they have.

Bill continues to mirror the steps that Cobb takes, by breaking and entering and examining other people’s lives through possessions. Bill becomes more like Cobb and even cuts his hair and dresses like him. Bill meets a woman who is attempting to get out of a bad relationship. She learns what Bill does and offers to help him get into a safe located in a pub. The safe might have some money in it, but she knows it contains pictures that she does not made public. Bill does know that she is also working with Cobb on a devious scheme.

Style

Shot in a film noir style (and in black and white) the movie has many sharp contrasts, dark corners and shady grey areas. It perfectly fits the mood and substance of the movie. There are deals and double-deals, and many things are not as they seem. The writing is good and it drops a few clues along each sequence. The narrative is broken up with some parts happening in flashback, some out-of-sequence, and short cuts of unknown significance. Only towards the end of the movie do the pieces fit together in a more organized whole.

Following (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes
Image Source: Google Images

Similarities To His Other Works

With the out-of-sequence presentation, this movie has a resemblance to Nolan’s “Memento”. In “Memento” the film is delivered is segments that are split between a black and white section and a color section. Each section is subdivided and intercut. It makes for a movie that must be viewed multiple times to appreciate how the protagonist’s issues with short-term memory leave him with a lack of continuity.

With “Inception”; Nolan also wrote and directed a movie wherein the main character’s name is Cobb. The aspects of loss of identity are again presented, as dreamers in a common dream take on new personalities and get deeper into the human psyche. In ‘Following’ there are some elaborate con games played out. Also in ‘Inception’, the main focus is in the deception of a person told one thing, while the truth is less obvious.

The other Nolan movies also bear some of the traits that he developed early with “Following”. The movie ‘Insomnia’ deals with a person who slowly loses his perception on reality. In “The Prestige” the main plot concerns magician who seems to bend time and can cheat death. In “Batman Begins” and in “The Dark Knight”, Nolan portrays Batman as a very troubled hero with issues of a dual identity.

Christopher Nolan has developed into a major class director and screenwriter. He has found a style in his movies that take people into dark and mysterious places. His movies are commercial successes. There is a lot of work created by Nolan, and many of the current talents that he shows today were first visible in his first movie ‘Following’.

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