Christopher Nolan knows how to make a solid film. From his stunning grittiness of The Dark Knight to the complex intricacies of Inception, Nolan is able to fill the seats of a movie theater. But before his record breaking blockbusters, and even before his creative storytelling of Memento, Nolan directed a very unique short film called Following.
This 1998 Neo-Noir takes place in the streets of London where an unnamed man (played by Jeremy Theobald) has a unique hobby: Following. He randomly follows people to see what they do, who they meet, or where they go. He never interacts with his prey, until one day he is caught by a man named Cobb (played by Alex Haw). Rather than be disgusted by the man, Cobb takes interest in him and shows him his hobby: Burglary. The two men begin working as a team, breaking into random houses and stealing personal items. However, the man becomes infatuated with a Blonde (played by Lucy Russell) whose house they break into and forms a relationship with her outside of their escapades. But with a rift forming between him and Cobb, risky tasks inquired by the Blonde, and a murder occurring, has our protagonist gone too far with his stalking?
In a similar fashion to Memento, this film is told in a non-linear fashion. It's not backwards, but it interlocks three chronologies following the three primary characters. One chronology is told from the main character's perspective while the other two showcase his interactions between Cobb and the Blonde. Eventually the three chronologies converge and you know the whole story and a twist is revealed.
As for noir elements, the story is told in black and white. Reminiscent of the old classics, the main character is a writer and narrates the story. Cobb is the slick criminal mastermind making the calls. As for the Blonde, she isn't really who she appears to be and is that Femme Fatale pulling the strings of our protagonist. Although this film is quite dark, I can't help but think of Dane Cook. Since their occupation consists of burglarizing homes, I think of Dane's B&E (Breaking and Entering) from his Vicious Circle stand-up comedy special. Dane's hilarious anecdote doesn't go the same direction as Following, but it has similar dynamics when Cobb and company go on their first burglary.
One final observation: The criminal mastermind of Following is named Cobb. If you ever watched Inception, you may notice Leo's character carries the same name. Although their characteristics are a little different, you can't help but ask, are these the same Cobb's? They both are master thieves and they both keep their hair slicked back. Could Cobb from Following be Cobb before the events of Inception? Probably not, but I like to see links and continuity between director's films (a reason why I like Tarantino so much!).
Following is a solid film and you can see Christopher Nolan taking root with his unique storytelling. I wouldn't rank this film as one of my favorites, but I'm sure it got the creative juices flowing so we get the awesome projects he's producing now.
So on Death List Five, Following ranks #3.