Our review of Following (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection, published January 10th, 2013, is also available.
You're never alone.
In 2001, critics and audiences alike discovered Christopher Nolan's mind-bending thriller Memento. However, before that reached theaters Nolan had already made a plot shuffling feature in 1999 called Following. An official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival and winner of the Tiger Award, Following creeps up on your DVD player care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Following unfolds in the vein of Nolan's second feature, Memento. The story interweaves through itself as we follow Bill (Jeremy Theobald), a man obsessed with following people yet never interacting with them. Bill stumbles across Cobb (Alex Haw), a man who also enjoys following people, but takes it one step further: he enjoys breaking into their flats when they are away, shifting through their possessions and sometimes stealing valuable items. As Bill follows the mysterious Cobb around he meets a beautiful blonde woman (Lucy Russell) who may not be what she seems. Featuring flash-forwards and doubling back twists, Following will leave you guessing until the final surprising scene.
I was stoked to watch Following. After discovering Memento and being thoroughly blown away by the way it told its story, I was very excited to see Christopher Nolan's first effort. While Following may not pack the wallop that Memento does, I still found this movie to be engrossing and entertaining. It's obvious that Nolan had a very limited budget to work with on Following—the film is shot in black and white, the shots are sometimes a bit shaky (which may be intentional to illustrate Bill's pursuit of different people), and the acting is slightly amateurish. However, what Following lacks in slickness it makes up for in story.
Much like Memento, Following tells its story in a very unorthodox manner by playing on the conventions of how a film should be edited together. You never know which character is good or bad, or if there is going to be a double cross at any moment. Following is one movie that you don't want to take a washroom break during. It felt as if should I have blinked at the wrong moment I would have missed some crucial part of the puzzle. Clocking in at around 71 minutes, Following was, in my opinion, the perfect length for a movie with this kind of story. The actors all play their parts well, though no one is a real standout. Lucy Russell's character is secondary to the two male leads. Alex Haw as Cobb and Jeremy Theobald as Bill are both fine as deceptive and shady characters who are never what they seem. The film is very sparse on music, only chiming in during a few key scenes.
If I have any complaints about Following it's that it pales in comparison to Nolan's superior Memento. I think that it may be a good idea for viewers to watch Following first before they see Memento, sort of like an appetizer to the main course. Taken together, these two movies prove that in the coming years we may be getting some great cinematic treats from a filmmaker that will both make us think and boggle our minds at the same time.
Following is presented in 1.33:1 full screen. I am not sure how Following was originally shot, but this full screen presentation doesn't seem to be much of a hindrance on the film. I did spot a few instances of grain and dirt, as well as a few blemishes, though overall this is a very nice looking print. The black and white colors looked very deep and bright with only a small amount of softness penetrating the image.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby Stereo in English. This soundtrack tends to lean towards a more mono sounding presentation with sound effects, music and dialogue all coming from the center speaker. However, since Following is not an effects heavy movie, this soundtrack supports the film well. There was a slight amount of distortion during the film, but it shouldn't interfere with the viewing. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
Columbia has seen fit to add a few interesting extra features on this edition of Following that should please fans of the film. To start with there is a commentary track by director Christopher Nolan. This is one of those commentary tracks that won't entertain with funny stories or gags, but is certainly packed with informative tidbits on the making of the film. Nolan is a very droll speaker who has a vast knowledge of the story and the production (as well he should since he wrote, produced, and directed the film).
Next up is a "second angle" feature that allows the viewer to flip over from the film to the screenplay. This feature allows the viewer to see what was cut from the film, as well as notice how things can sometimes drastically change from script to screen. Also available is a nice feature that allows the viewer to restructure the film so that it plays in chronological order. This is great for those of you who have ADD or get confused by these types of stories.
Finally there are some theatrical trailers for Following and Memento, plus some biographies on the principle cast and crew members.
Produced for about the price of a cup of coffee, Following is proof that you don't need Hollywood's backing to get a good movie in the can. For those of you who loved Memento I can guarantee that you'll also like Following. Columbia has done a nice job on this disc, and with a few extra features, it should make a nice addition to any film noir fan's collection.
Both Columbia and Following are free to go…just watch your back!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director Christopher Nolan
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