Closeups on hands might seem like too small a detail to become a trademark of a director’s visual style, but looking back on Nolan’s oeuvre shows just how much they reveal about his characters.
Over the course of Nolan’s nine feature films, he uses hands to show in practice what dialogue would only be able to hint at. The closeups add intensity and drama to small motions, show obsession and vulnerability, create tension by informing the audience of danger or subterfuge, and are used as a visual metaphor for letting (or not letting) go. I’d give Nolan a round of applause, but I’m suddenly really aware of my hands, and even the way I’m typing seems to suggest some pretty unbecoming things about my personality.
Between Nolan’s love of hands, Cronenberg’s body horror, Kubrick’s gazes, and Tarantino’s foot fetish maybe some budding filmmaker can borrow the best parts of each and finally show us the entirety of the physical human condition.