Jonathan Demme close up

What the heck is the Jonathan Demme Close Up and how does it differ from a regular tight close up? One of the trademarks of director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) is a particularly intense tight close up in which a character appears to stare directly at the audience.

Examples of The Jonathan Demme Close Up

While you can watch a master cut of how Demme has used this technique throughout his career, The Silence of the Lambs is one of the best examples of how the tight close up can increase the intensity of a scene. This technique is particularly noticeable during one of the film’s most intense scenes when Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) shares a traumatic childhood experience with Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Demme cuts back and forth between tight close ups of the two characters and it honestly feels like the menacing Hannibal Lecter is staring directly at the audience.

Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting does an excellent breakdown of an early scene from The Silence of the Lambs, explaining how this technique, among others, functions to tell the story.

The next time you’re shooting an emotionally intense scene, consider framing your shots using this technique. It has the power of a tight close up combined with the intensity of the actor staring directly act the audience.