Last week, Robbie managed to snag some tickets to see a couple of films at the British Film Institute (BFI). I’m fairly sure he told me at the time that it didn’t matter if we missed the first one, just don’t miss the second one. I’m also quite certain that Robbie also told me what made the second film so special, but for some reason it completely slipped my mind.
I was running late, after a project overran at the office, and so barely made it time. Following the usher’s light along the gangway, I quickly found my seat and found myself wondering how on Earth I’d never actually been to see anything at the BFI before (the cinema was gorgeous). Robbie was already sat down, and the film had just got going. I couldn’t remember what we were seeing, or even why we were seeing it.
Shot in the late 90s for a budget of around $6000(!!), Following is a feature film just over an hour in length. Our protagonist is a wannabe author who, as the title of the film suggests, as a rather dark habit of following people. Over the next 60mins or so, we find out what happens when someone follows you back…
Set in a world before mobile technology changed our collective lives, Following has a somewhat timeless feel to it that you can’t quite shake. It’s recent, but not too recent.. if you get my meaning? It doesn’t matter. What I’m saying it is: it feels old, when it isn’t really that old.
And that’s a good thing.
The acting is little am-dram (and actually reminded me quite considerably of a film I shot around the same time), and our leading man only seems to have one gear but… BUT… the pacing and storytelling are excellent. The film twists and turns and eventually, as each part of the story unfolds through a series of flashforwards and flashbacks, you realise where it’s been taking you all along. Nicely done.
But here’s the rub. When the credits rolled, the first thing I spotted was ‘Christopher Nolan‘ as writer/director…
‘Oh look,’ I said to Robbie ‘Nolan!’, he looked at me like an idiot and said ‘Yes, don’t you remember? That’s why we’re here,’ and THEN I remembered:
Following was written and directed none other than Christopher Nolan. It was his first feature in fact. Robbie had bagged us tickets to see a cinematic showing of one of my favourite director’s first films and I’d utterly forgot! It was an awesome surprise of immense proportions.
My brain started racing:wait, yes! the pacing, the jumping back and forth, the twists, the reveals, the characters… Christ, even a guy named ‘Cobb’… it’s all there!
One of my favourite, absolute favourite things about being so in love with film is the study of the fingerprints that each director leaves on their body of work, and how those prints grow over of time. Look closely and you begin to pick up tell-tale marks, sleight-of-hand moments, certain light & composition choices, word-play, directorial decisions that completely change the way you, the viewer, experience the art you’re consuming.
Being able to view creativity evolve over time is nothing short of exhilarating and – especially with an artist such as Nolan – diving into their earliest works is always the best place to start spotting where that vision, that passion, is at its most raw and purest form.
In this instance it is abundantly clear: without Following there would be no Memento, no Prestige, no Inception. In fact, as a precursor to Memento in-particular, Following could be viewed as a way into Nolan’s style of writing and directing.
And I love it for it.
Following isn’t a great film. It’s different, yes, but not excellent. However, as an insight into the early creative sparks of one of the greatest storytellers of our generation, it is unmissable.
Thanks Robbie, you made my night.