In 1998, a young filmmaker made a sensational debut with a small, low-budget film called Following, an impressive film-noir influenced psychological thriller about a bored, unemployed writer (who is referred to in the credits as only ‘The Young Man’) with a unique obsession: he likes to follow people and learn about their lives. During one of his ‘followings’, he is caught red-handed by a smart-looking and experienced thief Cobb (a name Nolan would use later for his protagonist in Inception, played by Leonardo DiCaprio).
Cobb teaches the young man the tricks of breaking and entering into people’s apartments and thereby making a considerable “impact” in their lives. What follows is a superbly crafted, extremely intriguing and riveting tale which features several of the themes and tropes that would show up in Nolan’s later films especially Memento, the one that is actually regarded by many as his debut film. But the brilliance of Following cannot be overlooked as Nolan employed the same non-linear, fractured narrative that made Memento such an engaging watch. The film ends with a deliciously shocking double twist that you won’t see coming.
Following was made for a budget of $5000, a measly sum compared to the humongous budgets for his action-heavy blockbusters such as The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. But Nolan has made the film with such conviction and dedication that, it doesn’t feel as if it is a small independent feature (the runtime is close to 70 min). Nolan has discussed the making of the film with VICE in an insightful 26-min video for the Criterion Collection. It’s a must-see for every budding filmmaker out there. The video can be watched below: