The principle of parsimony

The principle of parsimony suggests that the simplest explanation or solution is often the most preferred one. This principle can be applied to narrative construction and plot development, encouraging writers to avoid unnecessary complexity, convoluted explanations, or excessive subplots. The focus should be on streamlining the narrative and presenting a clear and concise story that effectively communicates the intended themes, messages, and character arcs.

Let’s look at examples of films that have followed the principle of parsimony, as well as a film that failed to adhere to this principle and suffered as a result. Additionally, we’ll explore an example where a film succeeded in conveying its story despite not following the principle.

A film that followed the principle:

12 Angry Men (1957) –  This film takes place almost entirely in one location and focuses on the discussions between twelve jurors in a murder trial. The film employs minimal sets and limited characters, keeping the narrative tightly focused on the jurors’ discussions, arguments, and personal biases. They did not delve into any unnecessary subplots or background stories, thereby effectively communicating the themes of justice, empathy, prejudice, and reason.

A film that failed to follow this principle:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.” In this film, the narrative expands beyond the central premise of the Hunger Games and delves into the larger rebellion against the oppressive Capitol. While the rebellion storyline is an integral part of the story, the film features a number of action sequences and conflicts that may not contribute significantly to the overall story or character development. The additional plot elements, political maneuverings, and tactical strategies made the narrative feel more convoluted and less focused on the actual premise compared to the earlier films.

A film that succeeded despite not following the principle”

Pulp fiction: Despite its nonlinear narrative structure, and multiple plot lines, pulp fiction succeeded and its success lies in intertwining narratives, snappy dialogues, and memorable characters. It created a visual experience that resonated with the audience.

To clear any misunderstandings you may have, I would like to take an example of the film Inception. Although by the premise of it, it looks like a complex movie with multiple characters and storylines. However, the movie seamlessly adhered to the principle of Parsimony by sticking to its theme of perception of reality and the power of the subconscious. The film introduces only the relevant information without overwhelming the audience with unnecessary details. And each character and subplot serves the central heist plot of the movie making this complex narrative easy to understand and makes it engaging and thought-provoking for the audience.