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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents

Following (1998)

Bill: Shadowing. Following. I started to follow people.
The Policeman: Who?
Bill: Anyone at first. I mean that was the whole point. Somebody at random.- Jeremy Theobald, John Nolan

Stars: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell
Other Stars: John Nolan, Dick Bradsell
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence
Run Time: 01h:10m:55s
Release Date: 2001-12-11
Genre: suspense thriller

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+B+ B+

 

DVD Review

Christopher Nolan's Memento, a breath of fresh air in the often stagnant world of mainstream filmmaking, dared to juggle the standard storytelling timeline with a smart script that went against the grain by starting at the end and ending at the beginning. That film required the viewer to pay close attention to details, and to feel the same sense of confusion felt by the lead character. Only Nolan's second film, Memento challenged audiences and gave hope to movie buffs that had grown numb to the bulk of the predictable drivel that is supposed to pass for entertainment these days.

Nolan's debut, Following, which was originally released in 1998, is yet another clever time-shifting film noir tale that presents a non-linear narrative that asks adventurous viewers to piece together the jumbled components of the story. I won't reveal too much of Nolan's script, because like Memento, the joy in a film like this is the discovery.

Bill (Jeremy Theobald) is a lonely, unemployed writer in London who enjoys a voyeuristic game he created where he randomly selects an individual to follow. He claims it's to gather material for characters, but it's clear that Bill (if that is even his real name) has some deep-seeded issues that propel him to randomly follow strangers and vicariously enter their lives, at least from a distance. His life changes suddenly when Cobb (Alex Haw), whom Bill has been following, confronts him in a diner. The well-dressed Cobb, who could pass for any random young professional, is actually a burglar, and he initiates Bill into his world of daring thievery. Cobb's motivation to steal is the desire to rattle the lives of those he steals from, to "take it away to show them what they had." He analyzes his victims belongings to create a picture of what their life is like. As with any retro noir flick, Bill finds himself drawn into a dangerous world, which includes a mysterious blonde (Lucy Russell) and her murderous boyfriend, known only as The Bald Guy (Dick Bradsell).

What makes Following so unconventional is the way Nolan intersperses what he calls "parallel narratives" in which the chronological flow of the film is altered dramatically. The entire timeline is cut and shuffled, and the film will suddenly jump far forward, then back, then forward a bit, then back even further. To make this device work, the character of Bill goes through a series of significant appearance changes, and this allows the viewer to slowly piece together the story.

A solid cast gives Following a real sense of believability, but it is the character of Bill that serves as the dramatic anchor. Theobald portrays this nervous loner in a low-key manner, and his actions seem incredibly genuine. His expressive face—especially his darting eyes—help paint Bill as a man quickly sucked into something over his head.

With a brief runtime of only 71 minutes, there aren't really any non-essential scenes here, and Nolan's brisk and stylish pacing, even with the purposely askew narrative, keeps things quickly moving forward as Bill becomes increasingly mired in life-threatening danger.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Columbia TriStar's 1.33:1 full-frame release of Following is not a crisp, finely-detailed transfer, but rather it is an intentionally shadowy and grainy black & white film that perfectly reflects the dark lifestyles of its main characters. A fair amount of grain and white specks are evident, but as Christopher Nolan indicates on the commentary track, his intended feel of creating a"cold and aggressive, almost documentary feel" is quite obvious. Nolan's film, with its purposefully dark, retro noir-ish shooting style full of terrific facial shadows and backlighting, does more for creating mood than the most pristine full-color film could.

This is a gritty, voyeuristic film, and Columbia TriStar has supplied a perfectly matching image transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The sole English 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track from Columbia TriStar also matches Nolan's minimalist visual tone very well, though it doesn't offer much in the way of significant surround cues. The mix provides natural, clean and intelligible dialogue from the fronts, with few frills or dramatic imaging. This isn't the type of film that would benefit from an overly robust 5.1 mix, as it is primarily a dialogue-driven thriller.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Memento
Screenplay
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Christopher Nolan
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Restructure Following
Extras Review: Columbia TriStar has provided a decent set of extras here:

Commentary
One of the highpoints is the full-length, scene-specific commentary from director Christopher Nolan, which is really geared more for the low-budget filmmaker. As a result, Nolan's comments are more mechanics than fluff, and tends to focus on the ways he was able to make his "parallel narratives" that make up Following so cheaply, and still create a visually compelling film. He's not the most energetic speaker, but he does shed light on a few tricks that independent filmmakers can do in order to capture some permit-free location shots. Nolan relied on family and friends for most of the interiors, including using Jeremy Theobald's actual apartment to double as that of his character Bill.

Shooting Script
During playback of Following, the opportunity to view alternate angles to show the shooting script, and compare it to the final product, appear frequently. Not exactly the type of extra that will thrill everyone, but this is another tool that future filmmakers can study to see the changes from script to screen.

Restructure Following
Here's a feature that a lot of people would have liked to have seen on the original DVD release of Nolan's Memento. This allows the viewer to watch a chronological version of Following, without any timeline altering. I recommend that you only watch this AFTER you've watched Nolan's original version, because I think the thrill of this film is the uncertainty and confusion.

Fourteen chapter stops, subtitles (English and Spanish), cast & crew bios, a theatrical trailer for Following, as well as Memento are also included.

Extras Grade: B+
 

Final Comments

Following is another exciting piece of unconventional filmmaking from Christopher Nolan. If you are a fan of Memento, this film noir classic is without a doubt required viewing. Columbia TriStar has included a fair set of supplementals, including a Nolan commentary and the ability to play a "chronologically correct" version of the film.

Highly recommended.

Rich Rosell 2001-12-11