Following (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Following is a 1998 crime film directed by Christopher Nolan about a young man who follows people he sees on the streets and is drawn into a world of crime. The story is told in a non-linear style, a technique that Nolan uses in his next movie, Memento and 2006's The Prestige. The soundtrack was composed by Nolan's frequent collaborator David Julyan. Three actors from this movie; Bill, the blonde and the inspector make cameo appearances in Batman Begins, also by the same director.

Tagline: You're Never Alone.


Bill is a young, jobless aspiring writer. He tells a story about himself to a man, explaining how he began to follow random people on the street in an attempt to understand them. He sets up a number of rules to separate himself from the people he follows, but breaks them when he begins following a specific man, Cobb, day after day. Cobb wears a suit and leaves several different apartment buildings carrying a bag. He eventually confronts Bill at a diner and reveals that he is a burglar. Cobb invites Bill to accompany him on his next burglary.

Cobb takes Bill to an apartment and explains to Bill that there is usually a key somewhere on the doorstep. Bill finds the key and they go inside. Cobb first finds a bag and then begins going through the apartment. He explains that you can learn a great deal about people from their possessions and deduces that the apartment belongs to a young couple. Cobb shows Bill that everyone has a box in which they keep their most personal possessions. He then explains that his true passion is jolting people through his robberies so that they reexamine their lives. His motto is "You take it away to show them what they had." He even tries to frame the man of the apartment for an affair, applying his philosophy to destroying relationships as well. A couple arrives at the apartment before the burglars leave. Cobb passes himself off as a prospective renter and the two quickly leave.

Bill is thrilled by the experience, but worries that the couple has seen their faces. Cobb determines that the woman was having an affair with the man they saw, and so will not report the incident to the police. Cobb suggests that Bill find the next apartment to rob. Bill selects his own apartment. Cobb uses the key under the doormat to enter and deduces that the owner of the apartment is an educated, unemployed loser who wants to impress people. Bill is silently hurt by Cobb's analysis.

Bill begins following an attractive blonde woman who frequents a local bar. He tries to pick her up but she rebuffs him, telling him that she is involved with the bald-headed gangster who owns the bar. Bill chooses her apartment to break into next. Cobb takes a pair of her panties and her box of sentimental possessions, then misplaces one of her earrings. Afterwards, Cobb takes Bill to the run-down apartment where he is squatting. He suggests that Bill take the loot and fence it himself, then offers to buy him dinner. At the restaurant, Bill spots the woman who discovered them burglarizing her apartment. He panics, and Cobb suggests that he change his appearance to look more respectable.

Bill cuts his hair and begins wearing a suit. He pores over the Blonde's possessions and eventually tries her again, this time with more success. She confides in him about how she fears the bald-headed gangster. She tells a story about how he brought a man who owed him money to her apartment. He smashed the man's hand with a hammer and then crushed his skull, leaving blood all over her rug. She eventually tells Bill that the gangster is blackmailing her with an envelope of photographs he keeps in a safe along with his money. He promises to break into the safe and return the envelopes unopened. He brings the plan to Cobb, but Cobb refuses and the two men fight.

Bill later calls Cobb to say that he is doing the job alone, and asks what protection he should bring. Cobb suggests a hammer. Bill breaks into the bar and opens the safe using the combination the Blonde has given him. The safe contains an envelope and stacks of cash. He cannot find a bag, so he begins taping cash to his body. A man stumbles upon him and Bill hits him on the head with his hammer. He gets home with the loot and opens the envelope, but discovers only ordinary modeling photographs of the Blonde.

He confronts the Blonde with her deception and she tells him that she and Cobb have set him up. Cobb had recently broken into the apartment of a murdered old woman, and was charged for the crime. Having known that Bill was following him for some time, Cobb decided to manipulate Bill into mimicking his appearance and habits to create a decoy for the jury. The Blonde is a friend of Cobb's and helped him with the plan. Bill resolves to turn himself in and tell the whole story, but the Blonde is unconcerned. She returns to Cobb and tells him of her success. Cobb reveals that he actually works for the bald-headed gangster, whom the Blonde has been blackmailing with her blood-soaked rug. He initiates the final part of his plan and kills her.

Bill finishes his story, but the man, who is a detective, tells Bill that there is no ongoing investigation of the murder of an old woman. Rather, a great amount of evidence links Bill to the murder of the Blonde, who was recently killed with his hammer. In addition, Cobb had lied about his true name and address to the blonde and Bill alike so Bill could not tell the detective that it was Cobb who actually murdered the blonde. At the final scene, the man formerly known as Cobb wanders into a crowd and disappears.


Following was made on an extremely low budget. The principal actors had full-time jobs and were only able to shoot on Saturdays. Because the budget permitted only one or two takes, six months of rehearsal were done before shooting began. Following was shown at the Hong Kong Film Festival, and the screening helped Nolan find investors for his next film, Memento.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Following (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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