Features and Columns · Movies

How ‘Following’ Set the Pace for Christopher Nolan’s Career

Following walked so that Christopher Nolan’s career could run.
Following Nolan
By  · Published on January 30th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores how Christopher Nolan’s film debut, Following, set the pace for the rest of his filmography.

Visiting an established director’s first feature is always a treat. Whether they’re charmingly scrappy and unpolished (like John Carpenter’s Dark Star) or unfairly polished (like George Lucas’ THX 1138).

Another “first film” wrinkle I personally enjoy is when filmmakers’ debuts feel like an err-text for their whole careers, the destination all roads seem to lead to. The Coen brothers’ first film, Blood Simple, feels protean in this way: a vessel of all the quirks, hallmarks, and flourishes that make a Coen brothers film feel like a Coen brothers film.

And as the following video essay argues, the same could be said of Following, the 1998 indie neo-noir that announced the arrival of one Christopher Nolan. Even though superficially a no-budget, black-and-white character study might seem incomparable to the bombast and scale of a Dunkirk or a Tenet, Nolan’s debut feature contains the seed of the bugaboos that would come to define Nolan’s style. From its thematic concerns with time and identity to its emphasis on psychological twists and turns, Following‘s fingerprints are all over its director’s subsequent works.

Set in London, Following tells of a struggling writer (Jeremy Theobald) who habitually trails strangers. He tells himself that it’s to find inspiration. That his strict rules keep his hobby from taking a sinister left turn. When the writer finds himself pulled into the gravitational pull of a petty thief named Cobb (Alex Haw), things begin to spiral out of control.

Spoilers ahead … and don’t forget to peek over your shoulder from time to time.

Watch “Following (1998) – Establishing Nolan’s Style”

Who made this?

This video essay on how Christopher Nolan’s debut film, Following, set the stage for his career is by You Have Been Watching Films. United Kingdom-based writer Oliver Bagshaw produces the channel, creating video essays on an assortment of movies, from cult to classic strains of cinema history. You can subscribe to their YouTube channel here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).