The subtlety of close ups
When you think of the style of Quentin Tarantino, you don’t think subtlety. He is a director known for pushing the boundaries of action and violence, with unique characters that stand out as original in each film. In fact, if you ask anyone to describe the directing style of Tarantino, you can almost guarantee that these three words; action, violence and character will be used. What most people won’t talk about though, is his use of close ups.
Weapons, food or faces? What does it mean?
Whether it’s weapons, food or faces, every film will feature close ups at some point, but why? They tell a story in a very Tarantino way. In Pulp Fiction we see a close up of a watch that Butch is looking at. A watch that has been passed down through many generations which in many ways this sums up his experience. Everyone must go through some kind of hell to earn it and to pass it on. As if the watch itself has to be respected because of everything that people before him had to go through.
The larger meaning should be found in these shots, in that they are not simply incidental or cut-aways is not lost on Tarantino.
These close ups are a classic example of that old filmmaking adage, show don’t tell. Most of the time, these close ups are used as an insight to where the film is heading or a look into what the character is truly thinking and what their motivation is. Yes, Tarantino’s films are violent but they are so much more than that. His vision for his films is always very clear and by simply stating they are violent action films misses the subtlety of his style. Close ups have become a stand out feature in his films that is as interesting as it is cinematic. So, pay attention to the close ups, you never know where they might lead.