3.5 Stars
Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 71 minutes
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Despite what Hollywood would like to believe, Christopher Nolan’s astounding Memento is not his first film. “Following” was his directorial and screenwriting debut, a very short but effective suspense thriller with a gimmick that doesn’t wear out its welcome. Nolan photographed this film in 16MM black and white and this no-budget gem plants the seeds of brilliance that come to fruition in 2001’s Memento. Not wasting a second of screen time, “Following” is a prime example for what can be accomplished with a good script, decent photography, and the will to get a film in the can.
Jeremy Theobald plays The Young Man. While he says his name is Bill in one scene this is never confirmed. The Young Man is a writer, or at least he’d like to think so, and believes he’s come up with a novel idea for stories and “character tidbits” to include in his stagnant compositions. One day, on a whim, he decides to follow a random person to see where they are going. Why they’re heading there, what happens when they get there, and so on. After the hunter becomes the hunted and the game is flipped on its end The Young Man learns he’s gotten himself into a lot more than he bargained for. We meet Cobb, a young thief, who shows The Young Man the ropes of his trade. When The Young Man obviously takes a liking to this type of lifestyle, he begins to descend into a dark world where double and triple crosses are performed without the slightest remorse.
The best part about “Following” is that it is so economical. And with its no-budget roots, it has to be. At a quick seventy minutes the film wastes no time in setting up its plot, characters, and twists. The non-linear storytelling throughout the picture means that anyone watching must pay attention to catch it all. Though not presented backwards, “Following” still contains as much crafted confusion and emotional density that was apparent in Memento. Nolan is well aware that voyeurism is intoxicating for the viewer and we get drunk on it here. Little pieces of plot that don’t really make sense until many scenes later keep us guessing as to what they mean and who is really running this scam that the characters participate in.
Shot on weekends over the course of a year, the themes of “Following” are easy to discern and the drama is still taut despite the economic shortcomings. David Julyan contributes a creepy score, much like the one he did for “Memento.” A true example in getting the most for your buck and screen time, this film is long enough to qualify as a feature but short enough to not overstay its welcome.
VIDEO ^ Presented in its original 1.33:1 Full Frame, this 16MM film looks gorgeous on DVD. The blacks are rock solid and grain is kept to a minimum. While edge enhancement and digital artifacts do creep up a few times, they’re hard to spot. Given the no-budget roots, and the cheap film stock, one would expect much less quality than what is presented here. This is simply a stellar transfer by Columbia Tristar and one hopes that all subsequent 16MM films get the same treatment.
AUDIO ^ In an adequate if somewhat disappointing Dolby Surround 2.0 track, the film lacks the punch of better mixes. While it’s adequate, that’s the highest complement one can bestow on this mainly mono mix. The score sometimes fills up the soundscape but its use is limited and the effect is ho-hum. But given the benefit of the doubt, its no-budget roots are served well with clear dialogue and effects. This is a serviceable mix that functions for the film and nothing more. English closed captions are included as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
EXTRAS ^ Though not specifically billed as a Special Edition, this DVD is a low-budget filmmakers dream.
Screen-Specific Commentary by Writer/Director Christopher Nolan ^ This is a fantastic track that is worth its weight in gold. Christopher knows very well how to get the most out of your shots, time, and resources and shares of all that insight here. A must-listen for the low-budget filmmaker, this commentary covers casting (consisting mainly of his friends), writing, shooting, scoring, and editing. From the tribulations to shooting in parents houses to getting the tough dramatic scenes just right, no stone is left unturned and you’ll be glad you took the time to hear him speak.
The Complete Script using a second angle ^ Utilizing that looked-over Angle button, this feature includes the entire script on Angle 2. Film students will rejoice in seeing exactly how the words translated to pictures. The scanned pages are the actual shooting script, complete with marked-out dialogue and coffee stains. This is a rare treat for those interested in filmmaking and its authenticity just makes it more alluring.
Restructuring “Following” ^ This feature puts the chapters into chronological order. This is a misnomer since the film itself has flashbacks and flashforwards inside each chapter. This might’ve worked had the film been broken down further, but since it is not this option will confuse more than it will enlighten any who stumble across it.
A few Theatrical Trailers are also included for “Following” and one for Memento as well as Cast and Crew Biographies.
OVERALL ^ Christopher Nolan’s first film is a keeper and a good example of what can be done with ingenuity instead of gratuity. The DVD is especially nice, walking filmmaker wannabes on how it was made, down to the script and on-set stories. With insightful extras and a beautiful looking package, this is a solid film and a great learning tool that is highly recommended.
OVERALL (DVD): * * * ½ – 3.5 Stars ^ MOVIE: * * * ½ – 3.5 Stars ^ VIDEO: * * * ½ – 3.5 Stars ^ AUDIO: * * * – 3 Stars

Posted on February 10, 2002 in Reviews by

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