Video Vault:: ‘Following’

1998: Christopher Nolan
Rated R: 69 mins.
Vault Rating: 8

Today’s Video Vault feature is a small budget thriller about an out of work writer (Jeremy Theobald) who begins following strangers for material to write about. When one of his subjects (Alex Haw as “Cobb”) catches him at it, they begin a relationship where the two are drawn into a criminal enterprise together.

The sparse little British film is shot in black and white with a nominal soundtrack and builds neatly and quickly to its climax.

The viewer is introduced to “the young man” as he describes why it is he has begun to follow people. The innocent endeavor begins with rules, such as never following the same person twice and that the subject must always be and remain a stranger. We seem to accept that our protagonist here is a stalker, if a benign one at the outset.

But when he follows Cobb, he has clearly met someone more cagey than himself. The dialogue between the two men is so compelling that they are intractably drawn in by each other.

By writing about the clever Cobb and his various burglaries of intimacy, the young man is pulled along until he’s got some critical decisions to make, having wound up more deeply involved than he intended.

I can’t say much more without revealing key points of the film, but suffice it to say that the film has a good bit of tension and a neat, small plot that doubles back onto itself. Nolan is clearly a fan of presenting information out of order and “Following” is a neat little exercise in withholding bits of information until they count most.

One can certainly see writer / director Christopher Nolan’s antecedents which led to his more complete and masterful “Memento” in 2002 and his mysterious “The Prestige” in 2005.

His complex characters came very much to the fore in his masterful handling of “The Dark Knight” in 2008, which may go down as a classic before it’s done. In Nolan’s hands, the Batman archetype went from something that could range to the childish and made it into wickedly good crime drama, revealing all the possibilities in the genre simply by developing deeper characters.

The clue here might be to check “Following” and then proceed to “Memento” and then “The Prestige.” It would be an outstanding triple-play. It is always worth checking a director’s early work if you really want a window into their later work. “Following” is a particularly good little example.

Until nest time. Enjoy!

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