A close-up photograph of a subject or object that reveals more detail. The view is tightly framed, and it’s typically employed to frame a character’s face such that it fills the screen and dominates the scene. Let’s look at when you might use one now that we’ve established a definition.
This shot is good for displaying character emotions and reactions, as well as presenting details on objects. The close shot is the best weapon a director has for communicating a character’s emotional state of mind; it takes us into the subject’s space and helps us understand their sentiments.
A close shot can also be used to display details or information about objects or situations, so it has some versatility, but it’s primarily a character-focused shot that aids filmmakers in amplifying the mood of a scene.
Memorable close shots, perhaps more than any other shot, have a way of imprinting themselves on your mind. Our first example is a powerful and large close-up shot from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining:
Jack Torrance stalks his wife Wendy throughout the hotel, causing her to seek sanctuary in the bathtub in perhaps the most iconic scene from the film. This close-up of Jack’s face, which is framed in the smashed door, is scary and wonderfully depicts Jack’s mental decline. As he delivers the famous ‘Here’s Johnny’ line, we see the craziness in Jack’s eyes and realize how terrified Wendy must be.
Our next close-up comes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, another psychological horror classic. The shower scene, arguably the most famous in cinematic history, would not be the same without the shocking close images of Marion Crane being violently attacked in the shower. The look of utter dread on her face as she tries to defend herself could only be caught in a close-up. Because we’re up close with Marion as she lets out her notorious screams, the sequence is incredibly intimate and effective.
The shot works well in violent scenes, but it can also be utilized
to heighten tension. Silence of the Lambs, directed by Jonathan Demme, is perhaps the best example of this.
Also READ: What do you call an action movie that looks real?