Following (1998), dir. Christopher Nolan
Writer-Director Christopher Nolan’s works have ranged from adolescent hormonal epidemics to pure sensory experiences of three-dimensional explanations, but what we have here is a neo-noir experiment that heightens reality in short but effective Danny Boyle-esque adrenaline thrills while delivering stunning results in its tinkering with the medium.
The often pondering Bill and his transitions of insecurity caught my eye; the camera insulates characters and especially Bill (and his conversations with the characters) by repeatedly drawing focus to very personal moments as the daft theft of underwear, inquisitive interludes or adapting imposed lifestyles caused by fright or mere manipulation. It’s also because Bill is timid that his timidness rules his decisions. More often than not boredom leads to a singular obsession and then that obsession parents many others. Following plays out like a simple account on the events surrounding the fixation but then there are the organic intercepts that furloughs gimmicks and introduces additional powerful layers.
“In a compelling story of this genre we are continually being asked to rethink our assessment of the relationship between the various characters, and I decided to structure my story in such a way as to emphasize the audience’s incomplete understanding of each new scene as it is first presented.”
Nolan’s use of non-linear devices isn’t a shocking revelation. The utility does not feel as groundbreaking as it should because an average film viewer is introduced to the filmmaker first by his grand-scale reckonings, of which every one has ended up in the IMDb top 250, a scale who’s credibility has long faded.
However, Following is different. What makes his first feature stand out is the cerebral terror (later revisited in Dunkirk in its most untarnished form). The twisted characters and their ravenous plots seem to append a sense of personal loss to the whole drama. The burglary here isn’t necessarily an outburst of materialistic gratification but the philosophy thereof is in the depriving of things that eventually mark a degradation in their emotional resonance. These particular objects may validate picayune value over the years but once taken can precipitate change. The same is the case with Bill and Cobb wherein Cobb steals from Bill his overlooked boredom and instigates compelling addiction in return. The eerie score advances the atmosphere into foreboding psychological darkness and recalls the cunning anonymity of Cobb who silently disappears into the crowd of unknown faces as does a waking bird into the crimson horizon. Few directors could achieve the lingering moral paucity and Nolan, smartly combining lighting with location, proves to be one with skill.