Following review by Matt Fuerst


There's this theory on Rock n' Roll bands (and maybe it applies to other bands as well) that their first album is always their best. The sophomore releases are generally much poorer in quality, especially with the lyrics and the music (the production might be better from the influx of money, but that's not what you're paying for, is it?). The idea is that a band has their whole lives, their whole life experiences to draw upon for that initial splash onto the scene, they've presumably worked on the songs for years, and truly were creative for years. It's a big hit, then they have a small window given to them by their record studio to churn out a sequel, with not much to write about aside from singing the injustices of record labels. It seems many bands from my generation fell into this cycle, certainly Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and arguably Alice in Chains. Thinking along these lines makes me wonder if film directors have the same issue. My initial reaction would be no, since a movie is often a collaboration between people that don't necessarily even know each other well. A writer, director, producer and editor all may be involved with a film, and brought together by it, but they weren't all driven together by it. This disparate nature of film might very well lead to a more even keel in film production. Director Christopher Nolan rose to fame with his second film, Memento, which I loved, but he truly should be better known for his first film, the wonderful jewel Following.

Following is the story of Bill. Bill is a lonely guy, who very early on proclaims he has been alone for a long while, and to break up the monotony he decides to start following people as they go about their business. He tries to justify this behavior, saying he's a writer and is looking for inspiration within other the lives of other people for his characters, but at the same time he admits that his mind reels at the endless possibilities a glimpse into another life opens up, and he desperately wants to ask "a hundred thousand questions" about their life with the sliver of knowledge he gets. Bill finds himself getting too deep into shadowing, so he begins to set rules for himself to make sure he doesn't scare people, or get hurt himself. No following women at night, don't ever follow the same person twice, things like that. Bill is so compulsive, he can't help but break the rules and shadows a particular gentlemen he fins intriguing for several days in a row. Bill follows Cobb around all morning, eventually going into a coffee house. As soon as Bill enters Cobb gets up to leave. Is Cobb onto him? Cobb walks by, pauses, and sits down. The following game is about to change drastically for Bill.

Cobb introduces himself, and asks why Bill has been following him. Bill tells a half truth, that he was following him since he thought he knew him. As it turns out, Cobb is a burglar, and seems to have some interesting ideas of peoples privacy as well. Yes, he robs people, but more than to gain money or goods, Cobb enjoys the idea of taking part in another life. Not only does he invade their privacy, which he feels people desperately want him to do (saying they leave their pictures and personal items out, hoping for someone to embarrassingly come across them just to feel alive) but Cobb decides to passively participate in peoples lives. Taking Bill along on his afternoon of robbery, Cobb picks out a few items from a flat, then leaves a pair of women's panties in a husbands pair of pants. He feels that he has to take away and violate a persons life, in order for them to take a moment realize what they had, what they are missing, and why they truly wanted what he took from them. Bill continues to follow Cobb around still telling himself that he is only taking part to gather material for his writing, but this is the flimsiest of excuses that no one truly believes.

Bill's need to get answers to the "hundred thousand questions" overcomes him, and he once again breaks his rule, and ends up getting involved with a person whose flat himself and Cobb invaded. This starts the true story of backstabbing and deceit amongst the three principals where someone is going to get hurt.

The characters and story here are excellent. As the film begins, we "follow" Bill as he "follows" people, and it's really fascinating to watch. Bill narrates his following process, and we get a real feel for his character, no matter that he is an empty person without much to do, he is doing something very interesting. Then Cobb and Bill meet, and the story plunges into this world of invasion that goes much deeper than the items in a persons home, instead it touches on the invasion into a persons life. This is all before the true story begins, with the triangle between Bill, Cobb and "The Blonde". Truly a masterful story, shot perfectly moody and dark in Black and White.

Something that really connected with me is the idea of wondering about another persons life. How many people are you around in a day, or make eye contact with? That lady at the grocery store, that guy in the car next to you. Are they happy? Are they in love? Do they cheat on their taxes? Do they speed? The possibilities are endless. I know I've heard of people that go into houses after people have died and buy these personal belongings, pictures, letters and the like. I guess it's a different approach the same idea, one that's maybe more legitimate, but still feeding the same perversion. The fact that someone else has experienced these same ideas is fascinating and I'm glad someone else explored this concept more.

Following is presented in a fashion similar to Memento with a disjointed timeline. Scenes from early in the story are intercut with ones from later in the story. As the movie goes along the first half and second half meet in the middle, and we then jump to the conclusion of the story. Some may cry foul that Nolan uses this tactic twice in his first two films, but they were both used well and perfect for their stories. The film is shot in Black and White, full frame (1.33:1). The film is in great shape and presents excellently on DVD. I was truly excited and intrigued while watching Following, which is a feeling I haven't had in a long time. I couldn't wait to see how the story got resolved, and yet, I didn't want for Nolan to rush the story in between since it was so interesting. Maybe I should take up home invasion to get that same rush as Bill and Cobb myself.

10 out of 10 Jackasses
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