Experiment 626 (which may, or may not be Stitch's real name) is an event embarked upon by the I'm With Geek Film Team. Film knowledge was unearthed, truths were found and a DVD exchange took place. These are the true life stories from that experiment...
To Hayley from Gloria
Despite Christopher Nolan being a pretty big name in cinema, many people haven’t seen his early works. Unlike the Batman trilogy and The Prestige his first feature film, Following is very much driven by its narrative and certainly lacks in the special effects department. One of the main reasons I enjoyed Following so much is that whatever you are expecting when you watch it, it won’t be that at all. It is shot in black and white which gives this thriller a very noir feel, and also makes you think about the process of filmmaking before such technology came into play. Another fact that impressed me about the film is that the cast and crew who were involved did this in their spare time and were only able to shoot on the weekends due to being in full-time work.
I’m glad that Gloria selected Following as my film, as I’ve long been intrigued by its existence. My relationship with Christopher Nolan is an odd one: I adore works such as Memento, The Prestige and Inception, while I found The Dark Knight Trilogy suffered under its own hype, particularly disliked The Dark Knight Rises, and downright hated the Nolan-produced Man of Steel. With the exception of Inception, most of Nolan’s recent output has been in the superhero genre, so it’s exciting for me to return to a Nolan away from the blockbusters.
I’m aware of Following. It is a film I’ve read a lot about, and have seen numerous clips of, but I’d never seen it in its entirety before. It is the story of a young man, Jeremy Theobald, an unemployed young writer, following strangers around London as sources for inspiration. But when he fails to keep his distance from a man in a dark suit, he is drawn into a criminal underworld, as the man is a serial burglar. The man’s name is Cobb, and it cannot be a coincidence that this is the name later given to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Inception. Both are charismatic and intelligent criminals, but while one works in dreams, the other conducts his business on the very real streets of London.
The lack of budget and special effects also allows Nolan to focus more on character development than flashy action sequences, and both the nameless young writer and Cobb are drawn extremely well, a perfect blueprint for the charismatic loners that will populate Nolan’s later films right up to Bruce Wayne himself. There are issues, however, in that while the characters are wonderfully written and developed, it is clear at times that their actors are amateurs, and that the film had to be made around a schedule of “day jobs”. Nolan is forced to rely entirely on natural light, which works wonderfully for the majority of the film but is jarring in moments. Still, I defy anyone to make such a promising debut feature on such a low budget.
I want to revisit Following, away from Experiment 626, at some point in the future, and look for more hints as to what Nolan was to become. As previously mentioned, the film does have its flaws, as would the debut features of many directors. Noting how he overcame these flaws in later features is one of the joys of Following, and for that reason, I’d actually recommend that newbies to the Nolan oeuvre watched some of his later films first, then came back to this. Following is an origin story worthy of the superheroes that Nolan now directs, the humbling, sometimes startling beginnings of a modern cinematic great.