Contributor: Rick McGimpsey
Christopher Nolan’s film debut is a frequently overlooked work that deserves more attention than it has in recent years. Following is a film that merits viewing for anyone interested in Nolan’s early career which has been overshadowed by his Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and the recent Interstellar. I believe, however, that forgetting Nolan’s earlier films like this one is a major mistake.
At first glance Following is little more than a low-budget piece made by a talented young filmmaker who eventually moved onto bigger, more successful projects later in his career. However, I would prefer to look at Following as more than just the impressive first-start of a popular director; but also as a great film in and of itself.
The film was made by Christopher Nolan and a few of his friends when he was a student filmmaker in London. The budget was produced from Nolan’s own pocket and he handled most of the cinematography and editing himself. The cast and crew were full-time employees which often meant Nolan could only film on weekends leading the production to be very slow. Despite all these limitations, however, the end result was a masterpiece that successfully echoes Hitchcockian suspense and the films-noir of the ’40’s and ’50’s.
Following centres around a young unemployed writer who has had little success and as a way to get new ideas begins stalking various people around London with a specific condition that he never follow the same person twice. Shortly after he disobeys his own rule by following someone a second time he finds himself in a life-threatening situation where he gets mixed up with a con-artist who catches him in the act. The consequences play out in a series of events that could potentially ruin his life and career. I won’t spoil the ending of the film, but suffice it say I wanted to re-watch the film immediately after viewing.
It is an excellent film that demonstrates perfectly that movies do not need excessive special effects or lengthy action sequences to keep the audience entranced. The film is driven by dialogue and story alone. And the story and dialogue is gripping and intense.
My recommendation for anyone wanting to track this film down is to look for the Criterion Collection release which is regrettably a bit on the expensive side but the transfer is the best you can find and it includes Nolan’s short film, Doodlebug which makes the price worth it. If you like neo-noir thrillers and do not mind low-budget indie films I definitely encourage you to give Following a watch.
Stay tuned next Wednesday when I discuss #19 of my 20 favourite films.