Film is subjective - not only in terms of what your opinion is of any given film, but how you understand and interpret any given film. I am of the opinion that any interpretation or reading of a film - or any piece of art for that matter - is valid so long as you can rationalize it by pointing out something in the work itself. Some works explain what their intended meanings are in explicit detail, whereas others leave more room for interpretation and allow the recipient to mirror their own values and ideas onto the work. Neither approach is inherently better than the other - how successful the end product is depends on how the chosen approach is utilized.

Minimalism, while a valid form of creating art, can easily be used as a crutch and as an excuse to dodge criticism. When someone criticizes your work for being shallow and underdeveloped, you have a ready-made excuse right at your disposal. "My work is vague because it's stripped down. I wanted to allow the audience to find their own meanings in it!" Instead of coming up with your own unique ideas, you can simply just not do any of it and let the audience figure things out for you. What you present is basically a blank slate devoid of personality that can mean anything to anyone. Mind you there is a big difference between a work that is vague but actually has hints written into it that guide the audience's interpretations in a certain direction, and a work that's simply just empty. It's the difference between a film like Eraserhead and whatever you wanna call a film like Only God Forgives.

When used correctly minimalism can be a sign not of a film makers laziness, but of their ability to convey ideas using only the bare minimum of material. A good example of this is the short film Bottle. Bottle is a five-minute stop motion short film made by Kirsten Lepore. The short centers around two vaguely anthropomorphic beings - one from a beach and one from a snow-covered forest. The two characters which are essentially an animated blob of sand and an animated blob of snow separated by an ocean between them communicate with each other by sending each other things from their own respective environments via a bottle across the ocean. The sand blob sends things like sand, seashells and seaweed, whereas the snow blob sends things like snow, needles and sticks.

There is no dialogue in the short and neither of its main characters have faces or any real features beyond being blobs with two appendages that sort of resemble stumpy arms. Never the less the short manages to convey a surprising amount of emotion and personality just through its visuals. The blobs are both precious and cute despite having no clear physical features or dialogue. All the inherent cuteness and adorableness comes from their body language and the way they move. The snow blob for example moves by rolling around as a giant snowball which is just about the most precious thing ever. And through their movements both characters are also given a personality slightly different from the other. While the snow blob rolls around like a snowball, the sand blob roams through the sand like a mole. And it is the sand blob who sends the snow blob drawings that insinuate they should both head into the ocean and meet up halfway. When the sand blob then eagerly without hesitation heads into the water, we can see the snow blob on the other hand look back before venturing into the water. Even without dialogue the short manages to imply that one of its characters is seemingly more eager and assertive than its other more wary one.

Without any dialogue or clear facial expressions from either of its characters, Bottle manages to convey the personalities of its characters, the relationship between them, and the emotions that go into its story. Instead of leaving huge gaps that it then assumes the audience will fill in for the filmmakers, the short strips its story down to its bare necessities, keeping only what is essential to delivering its story, and then letting the audience interpret the clues it leaves. It's minimalistic, but it is anything but empty.