Friday, July 6, 2012

"Following" My Extended Absence

     I have been away for far too long. Rather than give an extended explanation and apology, I'll simply say that I'm sorry and offer as compensation the fulfillment of one of my long overdue blog promises: typing up, tweaking, and posting my old hand-written review for Following.

Following * * * ½

     Film and story aren't synonymous. One encapsulates, manipulates, and then presents the other. As Roger has essentially said before, "Film is not only concerned with the telling of a story, but also in the way in which it is told." Even going back to their roots, the Nolan broth-ers exemplified a keen understanding of these facts. Though it was with their sophomore effort Memento that they earned notoriety and prestige; it was while they still stood on the precipice of that fame that they first demonstrated their mastery of storytelling with their freshman foray into cinema: Following.

     Following's starkly minimalistic black and white frames lend a documentary-like gritty realism to its stylized and streamlined plot. The film's allure doesn't just stem from its plot though. As with Memento, it is the way in which the film's plot unfolds that develops its intrigue.
The Nolan's second feature's plot's unfolding was initially
the topic of much controversy upon its release. Many (Roger included) argued that Memento's end-to-beginning-and-back-again-timeline was a gimmick and detracted from the story. It was argued that the plot seemed forced into an ill-fitting template that added tension through what it kept hidden but lost the thrills inherent to the story's natural arc. Following's far less controversial timeline exists in an initially far less obvious template than that of Memento.

     At first viewing one might confuse Following's casual time-jumps with those of Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience, assuming they were randomized and had no intrinsically relevant order. But at closer inspection, one finds that the plot unfolds in a neat rotation of three: (1) taking place from the beginning, (2) from the middle, and (3) from the start of the final act. Unlike Memento's backward and forward moving plot-lines that eventually intersect in the middle, Following's all move in a chronologically forward motion. And by creating a linear story, the Nolans allow for a naturally occurring climax at their film's end. Overall, Following's less intrusive template provides more opportunity for organic suspense than its successor's.

     The film's actual storyline hearkens back to the noir-esque thrillers of old like Peeping Tom or even Diabolique. An unemployed man spends a day
following strangers for hours. He goes home. Then does it again the next day. Jeremy Theobald plays this nameless voyeur (credited only as "the young man") with an innocence and complete absence of malice. He is simply curious. As the camera watches him stalk through the black and white city with lights bright enough to blind and shadows that obscure, we the audience become voyeurs to the voyeur before us.

     Theobald's nameless watcher lives by a certain set of "rules" (i.e. no following women down alleyways at night). The most important of which being that he makes no repeat followings. One day his fascination wins out though, and he begins a trend of following the same people. And so he meets Cobb (the catalyst to Following's storyline), who upon realizing that he has been followed, confronts his tracker. Detecting his voyeur's obvious interest in the private lives of strangers, Cobb invites him to abandon his routine of following and join him in his: breaking and entering.

     Cobb does indeed steal from the flats he burgles. But (as brilliantly played by actor Alex Haw) he is far more concerned with disrupting the lives of their inhabitants - in invading their cocoons, shaking them up. His desire to upset the status quo of the inner sanctum of the home, the very place where the most intimate details of a life are kept hidden, far outweighs his need to discover anything of monetary value. With Theobald in tow, Cobb continues in his routine of breaking into these residences.

     A flat covered in photos of the archetypal noir-staple of the gorgeous blonde elicits Cobb's comment that she must be vain to own so many pictures of herself. Theobald is enamored with her beauty though, and after he aids Cobb in "unsettling" the quietude of her apartment, he goes about the business of finding her to then follow her. Lucy Russell's blonde exudes seemingly effortless allure, but once she meets and becomes more involved with "the young man", we learn that her allure was more calculated than we initially assumed...

     To disclose any more plot-points would betray Followings twists and turns. This well crafted thriller from the Nolans is the embodiment of the phrase, "no one is who they seem", and a showcase for its horrific yet entrancing standout -Alex Haw as Cobb. In a scene midway through the film, as Cobb explains the pleasure he derives from his disruption of the status quo, another of Nolan's later screen villains comes to mind: the Joker. With the last of the Nolan's Batman Trilogy arriving in theaters in just two short weeks, this is the perfect time to discover where it all began for them as film-makers.

     Though I'd prefer not to linger on the subject, again I'd like to apologize for my overly long hiatus from blogging. I promise it's over now and I'll be back to my regular schedule of posting. See you all soon!

1 comment:

  1. great review on following, motivated me to watch it and loved it. look forward to your next post