following movie review
following movie review
Nevertheless, the central conceit is compellingly mapped, as wannabe writer Bill (Theobald) takes to ‘shadowing’ strangers he encounters in the streets for no other reason than his own voyeuristic curiosity. One of them is Cobb (Haw), a handsome, urbane and unnervingly cruel burglar who breaks into flats in order to analyse the owners’ personal lives and play mischievous mind games with their property: “You take it away, and show them what they had” muses Cobb, like some sociopathic first-year philosophy student let loose at a freshers’ fair. Bill is enlisted as his understudy, but it’s only when he hooks up with the girlfriend (Russell) of a gangster that the gullible hero stops being a fish out of water and becomes a lamb to the slaughter in a deadly game of cross and double cross.
Made for what appears to be loose change in and around the streets of London, Nolan’s first feature is by no means without promise, even though the film tries to run before it can walk with regard to its ambitious, noir-like narrative, a tortuous, convoluted melange of flashbacks and fast-forwards that come on like Nic Roeg to the power of eight.
While following Cobb, Bill takes his penchant a bit too far and chips into a restaurant, because an enigmatic bag held by Cobb happens to catch his attention. There is a quickly taken and edgily cut “point of view shot” of the bag taken from the perspective of Bill through a window of the restaurant, which explicates the fact that Bill was fascinated with mystery behind the bag. Cobb, who has been observing Bill following him and seemingly suspects vigilance approaches the gullible young man and asks; “why are you following him?”; and then an audience observes Christopher Nolan’s much talked about finesse in directing the actors, when Cobb is firm and confident in his dialogue delivery, while Bill is very clearly intimidated by Cobb and keeps fidgeting in nervousness. The stranger, Cobb, introduces himself to Bill as a serial burglar and fascinates Bill to join him for some spontaneous yet wicked burglary. Now, Cobb has some very philosophical idea of burglary, which is, “Take it away, and show them what they had”; and this conviction bewitches the creative guy in Bill and somehow the amazed young man succumbs to the beguiling charm and the nervy thrill of the serial burglary and decides to be Cobb’s partner in crime.
After watching the rest of the oeuvre of the eminent filmmaker, it gets even more interesting to find out that his 1998 film Following happens to be a short but smart Noir flick, which only goes to tell that the director was an absolute prodigy and a follower of him who watches this riveting thriller after his prevalently known and much acclaimed works would fall in love with this filmmaking rather non-linearly.
It begins with an interrogation/confession. A young man named Bill (Jeremy Theobald, who brings a halting, naturalistic freshness to his voiceover and dialog) is being questioned by an older man (John Nolan) about his habit of following people just to see what they do and where they go. He kind of rationalizes that it’s “research” (he wants to be a writer), but it seems more likely that he’s unemployed and bored. There’s an element of voyeurism at work, but it’s not primarily sexual — at least not at first. It’s more like he doesn’t really know much about people, and he’s curious to see how they behave. He explains a thought experiment where he picks somebody out of a crowd at a football game and, suddenly, they become an individual to him.
Up to this point, “Following” has appeared to be more or less linear — though, of course, we know it’s being narrated as a flashback. (But not, as it turns out, just your ordinary framing device; indeed, it’s very much like “The Usual Suspects,” except the teller of the tale is not the one in control). Nolan has fun scrambling chronology and playing around with visual details — the length of Bill’s hair, his style of dress, bruises on his face — just to keep us guessing about what is happening / will happen / has happened in the gaps.
As previously stated in this review, “Following” was directed by Christopher Nolan. And for being made on a ham sandwich budget, this was pretty well directed. You can see some of the things here that laid the groundwork for his style in “Memento”. Like the previously mentioned fractured narrative, and how he handled it. And while “Memento” had different color schemes for different scenes, this doesn’t really have that luxury with this movie since it was all shot on an older black and white camera, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (makes no sense, but let’s just say that it’s small and tight). Instead he had to rely on *gasp* the audience noticing differences in clothing/haircuts. Really, he showed a lot of promise with this film, even if some things aren’t great in it. For example, there are a couple moments of action that aren’t great. And that’s not entirely on the budget, you could tell that he hadn’t really learned how to properly do that stuff yet. So that stuff bugged me a little. But overall his directing is solid, especially for a first feature film made on a ham sandwich budget.
We follow a young writer (Jeremy Theobald) as he follows people around, just observing them. Then one day one of his targets, a man named Cobb (Alex Haw), notices that he’s being followed and confronts the writer. But he doesn’t threaten him or anything, but instead offers to take his stalking even further. And by that I mean Cobb helps the writer break into places, checking out people’s possessions and homes, just to get a better picture of their lives. So now we have our small noir story. And I’d say that this story is very ambitious for someone making his first feature film. But the plot here is handled surprisingly well. It even has a fractured narrative that is handled decently. However, the plot isn’t great. Since the runtime is so short (less than 70 minutes) the plot doesn’t really get time to properly develop. And the fractured narrative, while ambitious, wasn’t as good as it could have been. But overall, for such a short plot with the flaws it has, I have to commend Nolan for trying this for his first feature, especially since it didn’t turn out to be garbage. It’s pretty good.
Super brief but efficient, Following represents director Christopher Nolan’s burgeoning talent in tight filmmaking and hard-edge noir.
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