You're Never Alone.
Genre: Suspense / Psychological Thriller
Director/Writer: Christopher Nolan
MPAA Rating: R
, for some language and violence
Music: David Julyan
You may be more familiar with Nolan's more recent work, but Following is a more than worthy companion to its less obscure counterparts.
The film opens on an unnamed young man (Jeremy Theobald) sitting at a table trying to explain a peculiar old habit of his to a suited police detective. He follows people, or at least he used to.
"You stalk them?"
"No, it's not like that...."
The remainder of the film follows his story through a web of flashbacks, jumping around in time as the story requires. He is a starving writer with very little to do, and as a sort of character study-turned-obsession, he begins picking random people out on the street and following them everywhere they go, silently observing. He devises a few simple rules to keep things from getting out of hand: Never follow the same person twice. Don't be too selective. Don't follow women into dark alleys at night, and the like. If you find out where someone lives or where they work, never follow them again. Never contact the people you're following. Don't get involved.
"That's the one I broke first."
One day, after following a man named for several days, he sits down across the room from his quarry in a coffee shop. The man approches him. He introduces himself to the hero and wonders aloud just why the fuck he is being followed. It turns out his name is Cobb, and he fancies himself a rather different kind of burglar....
The story continues through the young man's faux-art theiving exploits with Cobb and his attempted romance with an unnamed blonde woman he also meets through following. He becomes increasingly entangled with both characters, completely breaking nearly every one of his rules. In the end, he finds out the hard way that his harmless character studies can prove much more dangerous than they seem.
Several months ago, one of the people who I had all but forced to go out and see Memento took advantage of an opportunity to view it in a double feature with Following. In discussing them with me afterward, he wavered between claiming to be unable to choose which of the two he prefered and tentatively giving Following the edge. I was convinced. So finally, when I saw it on the shelf at the local Blockbuster a couple weeks ago, I jumped at the chance.
I was certainly not disappointed. If I had not seen Memento first, I think I would have been just as awed by Following. The plot here is not merely backward, but completely fractured. It feels as if the story is being displayed before us as a polished jewel, revealed facet by facet. Each scene appears only when it becomes completely necessary and can effect maximum impact, irrespective of it's chronological placement. The result is a remarkably coherent whole, and by the end we understand the reasons and interconnections between characters and between their actions much better than would have been possible with a linear structure. In a way, this is an exercise for Nolan in preparation for the ultimately jarring time structure of his next film, but Following's nonlinearity serves much more in unification in contrast to Memento's psychological fragmentation.
The camerawork is stark and claustrophobic. The film is shot entirely in black and white, and I get the impression that color would have muddled the simple imagery unnecessarily. The background music is sparse, but adds a great deal to the tension (maybe nervousness is a better word) when it appears. The overall feel is almost that of a documentary. Despite the odd time structure, the scenes come off as very down to earth, emotionally and physically immediate. And finally, the terminal plot twist is at least as surprising and even satisfying as Memento's. Even with my friend's emphatic recommendation, I was quite surprised with just how well this movie was made. It's positively incredible how much Christopher Nolan was able to accomplish with just over an hour of film.
Credits courtesy of imdb.com