Review by Walid Habboub
December 27, 2001
In an attempt to capitalize on the tremendous success of the surprise indie
hit, Memento, Columbia/Tri-Star has released Following, the directorial debut
of writer/director Christopher Nolan. Even if the cover of the DVD didn't
scream the fact that the two films share the same creative force behind
them, a viewing of the film makes that fact quite clear. While the two films
share many similarities, Following does not have the same emotional pull as
Memento. What it does possess, however, is a much more superior DVD and one worthy
of any collection.
Following was shot in black and white, which is an excellent compliment to
the tone of the movie and the laid-back pace and atmosphere that are
maintained in the quick 70 minutes it takes to tell the story. The
chronology of the scenes of the film lends itself quite well to the story
and is extremely effective in maintaining suspense and peaking a viewer's
interest. It is like a tale told by a seasoned and veteran storyteller who
knows exactly when to move forward and back within the story to provide just
the right details.
The story itself is that of "Bill", or as he is named in the credits "The
Young Man", who is played by Jeremy Theobold, a new and obviously talented
actor. Bill is an aspiring writer who comes up with a unique method of
finding inspiration for his writing; following people randomly and shadowing
their lives. As he tells his tale, we see Bill break one of his rules for
following and fall into a complex plan of double crosses and greed.
The story really should not be discussed any further due to the intricacies
of the details involved and the fact that if the wrong detail is revealed, the story
falls apart for anyone seeing the film for the first time. It is enough to
say that the strength of the film lies in how it is made and how it is put
together. The script itself is solid and lacks no realism or any noir grit.
Where the film ultimately fails is in the overall plot, which
takes the convoluted double-cross storyline to a highly unbelievable
extreme. This storyline is quite unbelievable and the ingenuity and intricacy of
the plan involved is so finely detailed that it could only have
taken place in a movie.
The extras on the DVD are excellent. In addition to some truly interesting
and insightful commentary by Christopher Nolan, the disc has two unique and
quite interesting features. The first is a secondary angle feature that
allows you to view the shooting script as the movie's audio plays.
Substituting the regular visuals with the shooting script is a great insight
into how much a movie changes between the written phase and the filming
phase. Making it even more intriguing is the ability to cut in and out of
the script pages at the touch of a button. The mixture of the script and the
director commentary make for a very fascinating experience, almost like being
there in a room with the director as he plans out the final cut of the film.
The downside of this feature (and one that may only be caused by certain
players) is that the second angle feature warning pops up at the beginning
of every chapter; certainly a distraction from the film itself.
The other wonderful feature is the ability to view the movie in chronological
order. The feature itself is a wonderful idea and a great inclusion but
ultimately presents an unsatisfying film. When told in chronological order,
Following becomes a tepid tale that lacks any real suspense. The tone
becomes boring as the story is unraveled in proper sequential order and all
the wit and intrigue of the narrative virtually disappear. Of course, this
lowered opinion of the film could be due to the fact that the chronological
correct viewing was a second viewing and that will undoubtedly taint the
experience and differ from a first time viewing. The feature is still a very
nice addition to a very good DVD.
The overall disc is excellent, undoubtedly helped by the short running time
of the film. The transfer quality in terms of sound and picture is superb
and the features make this DVD a must-have (particularly for those who enjoyed Memento) even if the film itself is not perfect.
The style of Following in
terms of tone and structure as well as the music and narrative are very
indicative of Memento though it doesn't have the emotional pull that the more recent film
does. Nevertheless, the story, while being quite unbelievable is cool enough
and the script is tight enough that they compliment the beautiful and
intriguing style to the point that the film itself is not a disappointment.
The quality of the DVD and its features make Following an excellent
addition to any collection.