Recently I watched Christopher Nolan's first feature film. No, not Memento, he in actual fact made his first film in native England, called 'Following'.
Following, to me, really stands out as a fantastic cinematic achievement. I've never been a huge fan of Nolan, I find his work a bit too reliant on gimmicks, being dry of emotion, taking a few too many liberties when it comes to plot irregularities (How the hell did the Joker know the exact route of the chopper during the convoy scene in 'The Dark Knight'?) and filling his films with a lot of Road Sign Dialogue due to extensive plots (Inception for sure). However I've lauded him for his subtle or lack there of usage of special effects, and his eagerness for perfection in the production department (He always tries to stay close to the Raw material of celluloid film)
But when I watched Following, I really was quite amazed by the level of craft Nolan had put into making this feature considering the production limits and the budget. Made for just £6000, paid entirely out of Nolan's salary, the film is about an unemployed writer who is dragged into the criminal underworld whilst stalking people, a hobby of his. He is taken under the wing of a man called Cobb, a proffesional burgeler who enjoys breaking into people's apartments mainly for the thrill. The plot soon thickens and even though it is only 70 minutes long, the film feels far longer and far more complex, most probably due to it being done non linearly, and keeping us guessing.
There are of course some silly moments in the film, Cobb tends to be a little over the top from time to time and the ending revelations do jump a little bit into the far fetched catagory. But for the most part this is Nolan's most low key film and thus they can be overlooked. And the main kicker for me in the picture is the production itself.
Nolan felt that many low budget movies try too hard to be Hollywood esc and never try to be what they actually are, low budget movies. To seperate himself from this crowd, he decided to shoot in black and white, which would give the film a bit more of an artistic look whilst also saving the added anchor of having to deal with colours. Next he took the camera off the tripod and shot handheld, this way his film would not try and emulate the look of a typical studio set up. And finally he decided not to use guns, because he found (as I entirely agree with) that firearms tend to look fakey and cliched when used in No Budget films, as they require a lot of TLC in order to look authentic. Rather he used a hammer as he found this would let his film know his place and not look pretentious.
Because he was paying for the film out of his pocket, he had to be careful with how many times he used valuable and expensive 16mm film negatives, so he made the actors rehearse the scene multiple times before he hit the record button. He also shot many of the scenes right next to a window due to the lack of light that Nolan had avalible. Because sound was difficult to capture properly, he tricked the audience into becoming entranced in the film at the beginning by making the sound quality extra special so they wouldn't be too fussed when eventually the audio began to become lacking.
I think I've figured out a lot of important movie making ideas from looking into this film and am looking forward to using these techniques later in my movie making hopes.