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Puzzle Films/Anime?
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Posted 5/6/14 , edited 5/7/14
So the debate over the relative merits of Mekaku City Actors has got me thinking about puzzle films.

    "Recent Hollywood cinema has elaborated an extant fascination with self-deceptive protagonists and shock twists... In a recent study of modern Hollywood cinema, David Bordwell includes these movies within a discussion of contemporary ‘puzzle films’: that is, films which organise narrative suspense around a central enigma, repress crucial story information, provoke inaccurate hypotheses, and equivocate about the objectivity of narrative action."

    Bettison, G. (2006). Effects of the dominant in Secret Window. Retrieved from [link].

Puzzle films are interesting to me. Even though I'm not particularly good at them. But the ones I have seen always leave a little tingle in the back of my mind, a wonder if I actually understand them or not. They are most often a subset of the mystery and psychological thriller genres, although not all qualify. The difference is in the focus, with the primary source of engagement in a puzzle film being the unraveling of its Gordian Knot.... assuming the puzzle itself is not hidden.



(Brick is probably more of a tribute to film noir than a puzzle film, but whatever.)

These films can be open-ended (Inception) or closed (The Sixth Sense), but they often rely heavily on subjective narration, limiting the audience to what is known to a subset--or even just one--of the characters (Brick). They can also subvert the sequence of story events (Memento). They may subjectively reflect the mental stability of a single individual (Revolver) or simply suppress objective information, like the final solution to the central mystery (The Prestige).



(Seriously, something about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy won't let me rest.)

My favorite style, I think, leaves the audience conflicted over what is and isn't real (The Machinist), but that is not necessarily required. Some stories end with significant, objective, finality (LOST). Others end with that kind of finality, but are still open to multiple interpretations when it comes to their final scenes (Shutter Island). And then there are some where the very existence of a puzzle beyond the evident mystery is uncertain (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).

A good representative is a film like Stay (2005), which prompted Roger Ebert to begin his review along these lines:

    "The visual strategy in Marc Forster's "Stay" is so subtle you might miss it, but it provides a clue to the movie's secret. I will describe the strategy but not the secret. It involves transitions from one shot to the next, some subtle, some bold, all of them so agile we're not always sure what we've seen... There are lots of visual flourishes without meaning in movies... But in "Stay," the visuals are crucial to the movie's point of view and ultimately to its meaning."

    Ebert, R. (2005). Stay. Retrieved from [link].

I should probably talk about Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick here, but unfortunately I'm not well-versed in their work.


So, enough about Hollywood. What kind of puzzles have you found or heard about in anime?

Be sure to tag and label your spoilers!

Edit: A possibly simpler way to describe what I'm thinking of as a puzzle film is narrative at maximum complexity. A simple narrative unfolds chronologically with a beginning, middle, and end. In medias res is an example of added complexity, where the narrative starts in the middle or end and fills in the rest by using flashbacks. Puzzle films go beyond this, playing freely with things like disrupting chronology, time structure, character viewpoints, causality, etc.
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Posted 5/6/14 , edited 5/6/14
Not sure exactly, how you want your answers framed...Name the anime and the puzzle description? or just the anime itself?

For now, I will leave:
Paranoia Agent
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni -

Monster

Actually I think I might not have fully grasped what you are qualifying as a puzzle within anime...could you give an example of an Anime which has the criteria you think is valid?


Side Note: I like this opening, A Lot!
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Posted 5/6/14 , edited 5/6/14

cay032692 wrote:

Not sure exactly, how you want your answers framed...Name the anime and the puzzle description? or just the anime itself?

Honestly just whatever comes to mind. What the title was, maybe a short explanation if why is not readily obvious, etc.; if someone just wants to list every anime that has ever mindfucked them that would be closer to the target than not.


cay032692 wrote:

Actually I think I might not have fully grasped what you are qualifying as a puzzle within anime...could you give an example of an Anime which has the criteria you think is valid?

An amusing example would be The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat, but a quintessential one would be Perfect Blue. It's a 1997 psychological thriller by Satoshi Kon that largely limits the audience to the protagonist's point of view, and everything that happens is presented straight but is actually either reality, dream, or hallucination. I don't think there's a clear way to tell scene by scene on a single viewing, although the ending clears up most of the disorientation.


Monster I don't think is a puzzle, only because it is highly objective. There is no real question in the minds of the audience about what is happening since we know that Johan isn't a delusion or split personality of Dr. Tenma.

Although if there's a hidden meaning somewhere, even if it's just a cult theory, I think that'd count unless disproven.

I haven't seen your other two, I've been putting off Paranoia Agent for awhile now.
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Posted 5/6/14

Insomnist wrote:
I've been putting off Paranoia Agent for awhile now.


Watch this if you are able, as it's a really interesting anime. I like this one a lot and it definitely has deep psychological meanings to what's happening.
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"narrative at maximum complexity"

The problem with this concept as applied in Mekaku City Actors, is that the show has forsaken constructing good characters for the sake of obfuscating the plot. That's not good writing. It may be clever, but ultimately, if we don't care about the characters, caring about the puzzle itself is that much harder.

selector infected WIXOSS is another currently airing show that I think falls into the same lines, although the character problems aren't from a lack of trying, just some failures in construction and execution. Right now in the show, we have a ton of questions about different characters, the battle system, the implications of winning and losing. They are the most interesting part of the show, and they are enough for superficial interest at the very least.

However, without good characters to back up the intrigue, once our questions are answered, what are we left with? A solved puzzle. And what do you do with a solved puzzle? You look at it for a little bit, then you break it up and put it away for a long time. And, no matter when you come back to it, it will never be as involving as the first time you put it together because you already know where the pieces go.
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Posted 5/6/14 , edited 5/6/14

sonic720 wrote:


Insomnist wrote:
I've been putting off Paranoia Agent for awhile now.


Watch this if you are able, as it's a really interesting anime. I like this one a lot and it definitely has deep psychological meanings to what's happening.

Yeah; I guess I've just been saving it and Tokyo Godfathers since Satoshi Kon passed away.


iblessall wrote:

However, without good characters to back up the intrigue, once our questions are answered, what are we left with? A solved puzzle. And what do you do with a solved puzzle? You look at it for a little bit, then you break it up and put it away for a long time. And, no matter when you come back to it, it will never be as involving as the first time you put it together because you already know where the pieces go.

In a way you could say the same for any story once you've digested it.

True, heady obfuscation does not condone bad storytelling. It does promote a unique experience, though. I'm not entirely averse to puzzle films existing for their own sake instead of the puzzle existing for the sake of the overall narrative.

Hm... example.

Most mysteries in film exist for suspense purposes, they hold the audience's attention and keep us engaged in the story. In this case the mystery is a subservient element. But in some puzzle films, everything exists only for the puzzle.

    Edit: This is not necessarily true for all puzzle films. Just the hardcore ones.

Everything else should still be up to snuff, but at that point trying to get anything out of the puzzle film besides the puzzle is going to end in frustration (see: Stay has a 27% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 41% on Metacritic).

If it's dedicated purpose is to be a puzzle, it could be weaker for making concessions in conventional areas. It'd be like criticizing a chess match for not being a romantic drama, although pieces should still be consistent with their moves.

With pieces being characters, and moves being actions.


The following is a theoretical addendum:

Interestingly enough, it just occurred to me that in a way, creators can modulate... not engagement, what's a better word... the volume of cognitive mental faculties being focused on their work, by manipulating complexity. Which means the more complicated they make something, the more details it has to have for us to pick up on while we're expending the effort required to keep up with the plot. At which point, I would criticize Mekaku City Actors for having ZERO detail.

Akiyuki Shinbo's style ramps up concentration, in a way, because it's fairly unique and we spend more brainpower on it. This works for things like Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, Bakemonogatari, and Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica because there's depth there to get. In the first it's the mystery, in the second it's the dialogue, and in the third it's the character dynamics (at least personally, others might've highlighted other things). But MCA is just kinda... flat.

I hadn't meant this to be a discussion of current shows... oh well, it's relevant I guess.

MCA might have an overarching puzzle but it's lacking mise en scene.
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Posted 5/6/14

Insomnist wrote:
In a way you could say the same for any story once you've digested it.

I don't think you really mean this. Truly great art offers something new each time it is encountered. Having well-constructed characters provides the perfect avenue for new experiences of a single piece, because by their very nature of being "good," they are multifaceted and present opportunities for multiple interpretations, experiences and meanings.


True, heady obfuscation does not condone bad storytelling. It does promote a unique experience, though. I'm not entirely averse to puzzle films existing for their own sake instead of the puzzle existing for the sake of the overall narrative.

Hm... example.

Most mysteries in film exist for suspense purposes, they hold the audience's attention and keep us engaged in the story. In this case the mystery is a subservient element. But in some puzzle films, everything exists only for the puzzle.

    Edit: This is not necessarily true for all puzzle films. Just the hardcore ones.

Everything else should still be up to snuff, but at that point trying to get anything out of the puzzle film besides the puzzle is going to end in frustration (see: Stay has a 27% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 41% on Metacritic).

If it's dedicated purpose is to be a puzzle, it could be weaker for making concessions in conventional areas. It'd be like criticizing a chess match for not being a romantic drama, although pieces should still be consistent with their moves.

With pieces being characters, and moves being actions.

I agree that it would be unfair to judge a puzzle show on the basis of other factors, but then the question becomes: is intrigue good enough of its own? That's a value judgement I'm not qualified to make because I think you are running into the purposes of art and the categorizations of puzzle shows as art when you ask that question.
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Posted 5/6/14 , edited 5/6/14

iblessall wrote:


Insomnist wrote:
In a way you could say the same for any story once you've digested it.

I don't think you really mean this. Truly great art offers something new each time it is encountered. Having well-constructed characters provides the perfect avenue for new experiences of a single piece, because by their very nature of being "good," they are multifaceted and present opportunities for multiple interpretations, experiences and meanings.

I should've said "almost every" to cover my ass, but I don't think anything can truly fit that description (although longevity can vary, at which point we have likely imbued them with so much identity that we are amiable in their company).

Most things that I think are good I still won't watch or read twice. Although I do see how depth of character is a factor in revisiting something. But are we qualifying "great art" by this quality, ruling out things that are simple yet sublime?

Thinking of the monk looking at a blade of grass, at some point it is a focus for thinking and not a source of thought.


iblessall wrote:

I agree that it would be unfair to judge a puzzle show on the basis of other factors, but then the question becomes: is intrigue good enough of its own? That's a value judgement I'm not qualified to make because I think you are running into the purposes of art and the categorizations of puzzle shows as art when you ask that question.

I think it's just jumped a ruleset; it is not being used as a narrative, now, but a puzzle. Although I feel like this is a weak branch to put my weight on since understanding the puzzle illuminates the narrative for more complete understanding.

...

In order to continue I'd need an example of a story containing a puzzle where the narrative and puzzle were distinct in that the puzzle does nothing for the narrative, and I can't think of one. But I would not object to it existing, I think.

/bounces on the branch

Yeah... creaky. I'm not actually putting weight on this, consider it a tentative position.


Edit: Although I don't have any trouble calling a watchmaker an artist, or a fine pocketwatch a work of art. I'm not sure if that's a reflection of the craftsman's skill though, or a recognition of the watch's superiority over baser mechanisms.

But I don't have trouble calling something art even if it's a purely technical construct that fulfills its intended purpose.


Edit: Oh, I see. The difference between appreciation and engagement... I'll sleep on that one.
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So, what first came to my mind when I read the title of this thread was Phi Brain. But I realize that's not the kind of "puzzle anime" you are talking about.

I, too, love films and series with complexity and depth. Stuff that really makes you think, or turns your concept of reality on its head.

Paranoia Agent and Higurashi are pretty good examples, I think. But really, a true "puzzle anime" can be none other than Serial Experiments Lain. That anime is truly one of the most puzzling of puzzles, but that's what makes it so engaging and thought-provoking. You can watch it again and again and still get a new meaning out of it every time. Textbooks could be written trying to decipher it.

Another one might be Mirai Nikki, though to a less extreme extent. It's kind of like Higurashi in that

and there's also the whole Dues ex Machina metaphor, but it lacks a certain mindfuckery, at least in relation to the other titles I've mentioned. Still think it qualifies, though.
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Serial Experiments Lain is excellent! It's the first anime I ever bought, alongside Texhnolyze.

My roommate in college asked in passing what was happening in Lain once, I didn't know how to answer.


iblessall wrote:


Insomnist wrote:


iblessall wrote:

However, without good characters to back up the intrigue, once our questions are answered, what are we left with? A solved puzzle. And what do you do with a solved puzzle? You look at it for a little bit, then you break it up and put it away for a long time. And, no matter when you come back to it, it will never be as involving as the first time you put it together because you already know where the pieces go.

In a way you could say the same for any story once you've digested it.

I don't think you really mean this. Truly great art offers something new each time it is encountered. Having well-constructed characters provides the perfect avenue for new experiences of a single piece, because by their very nature of being "good," they are multifaceted and present opportunities for multiple interpretations, experiences and meanings.

So this is a very valid counter-criticism, and I've been mulling it over. I acknowledge the difference between appreciating a mechanism and being engaged by a narrative (including paintings, etc.); I'm not sure where that puts music that isn't trying to tell a story, but ignoring that. I don't have a refutation, but this did kick off a possibly interesting train of thought.

I can think of five reasons we revisit media, from the most basic, to the most common, to the most complex.

  1. Rectifying Incomplete Knowledge. Especially in more complex narratives, 100% information retention isn't a reasonable expectation. So we can revisit information we missed, or mentally misplaced. It is also possible to see earlier situations differently in the light of later events. In film terms this is referential meaning, or "just the facts".

  2. Interpreting the Whole. After referential meaning comes explicit meaning, or the openly asserted interpretation of the text. This is not subtext or debatable interpretation, it is most often made explicit to the audience either through dialogue or incontrovertible context or symbolism. But holistic understanding can take some further reiteration.

  3. Revisiting a Welcome Experience. Even if we have all the information stored away, and are also not really experiencing anything new, there's no question that we go back to media to relive familiar experiences. I'll often go back to a book or movie not to find something new, but to revisit something old. This goes for music, books, etc.

  4. The Changed Individual. Sometimes we find new things in a work because we are a different person than we were before, either subtly or radically. This can lend us a new perspective and let us see things in new ways. This is when we say a story grows with us as our outlooks change from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, etc.

  5. Dynamically Renewable Experiences. These are the works you could spend a lifetime studying and never truly get to the bottom of. And in my haste to reply, I kind of forgot that these even existed. But this is interesting, because their very existence is seemingly paradoxical. How can a fixed, unchanging thing be dynamic?

I'd assert that they do it by involving puzzles.

Rather, more to the point: they do it by including truly unsolvable puzzles. Ironisms being an example.

    Think of the endless irony of Hamlet, who when he says one thing almost invariably means another, frequently indeed the opposite of what he says... Irony demands [...] the ability to sustain antithetical ideas, even when they collide with one another. Strip irony away from reading, and it loses at once all the discipline and all surprise.

    Bloom, H. (2000). How to Read and Why. Pages 25, 27.

If Hamlet never says what he means, and we're never told what he means, how can we find out what he means?

I'm not using irony in its truest literary sense, but it's the idea of a narrative's reliance on inference. A story cannot include every piece of information about every character, so we're given enough to presume the rest of the pattern. This imperfect knowledge also simulates the realistic limits of knowledge, as we never wholly know everything about anyone.

But on a separate track, it can also produce enigmas, the answers to which cannot be known because they do not exist. What you're left with is a tantalizingly incomplete pattern, and the human mind's use of inference. I'd hypothesize that this is how we have centuries of analyses on the works of Shakespeare, due to his arrestingly enigmatic characters.

But this highlights an interesting, fundamental property of plots: that they are all, in a manner of speaking, puzzles. The vast majority are quite simple, mind, and are not at all enigmatic following their conclusion. But it's still an irrefutable truth. Most narratives are just presented in a way to clarify, rather than mystify. Puzzle films needn't be, however.

    The filmmakers have built the plot from the story, but viewers build the story from the plot... The story is the chain of events in chronological order... If we make other choices about presentation, we will be creating a different plot... Each variant is likely to have different effects on the audience.

    The story is the sum total of all the events in the narrative. The storyteller can present some of these events directly, hint at events that are not presented, and simply ignore other events... The filmmaker can also add nondiegetic material... This is why we can say that the filmmaker makes a story into a plot.


    Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K (2013). Film Art: An Introduction (10th ed.). Pages 75, 76.

The summation then being, I suppose, that puzzle films are not unique entities. They are simply extreme exaggerations of existing transformational rules in plot construction. But by influencing form and style, they influence how the story is experienced by the audience. This can be thrown into sharp relief by a generative stylistics study of Faulkner:

    ... the desk and the shelf above it on which rested the ledgers in which McCaslin recorded the slow outward trickle of food and supplies and equipment which returned each fall as cotton made and ginned and sold...

    ... the desk. The shelf was above it. The ledgers rested on the shelf. The ledgers were old. McCaslin recorded the trickle of food in the ledgers. McCaslin recorded the trickle of supplies in the ledgers. McCaslin recorded the trickle of equipment in the ledgers. The trickle was slow. The trickle was outward. The trickle returned each fall as cotton. The cotton was made. The cotton was ginned. The cotton was sold.


    Buckland, W. (Ed.). (2009). Puzzles Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema. Page 4.

As Buckland then declares, "I cannot help thinking that there's something missing from Ohmann's rewriting of Faulkner--and I'm not only referring to the transformational rules." Anyway, just a hypothesis. I assume it's incomplete and that there are other factors I'm overlooking, but it was an interesting collision of discussion and recent readings.
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Posted 5/8/14

Insomnist wrote:
I'd assert that they do it by involving puzzles.

Rather, more to the point: they do it by including truly unsolvable puzzles. Ironisms being an example.

Indeed, I agree here. But your use of Hamlet as an example highlights what I think is an important point, and follows along with the point I was trying to make earlier.

When I spoke about characters in my initial post, what I was using them as a metaphor for was the human element, which I think is the greatest puzzle we encounter in art. No sequence of plot events, no matter how obscure or complicated, can match the depth of the complexity of the human person and the human being's potential for self-contradiction and growth.

This is why I say that intrigue is not enough; because once who have seen the trick at the end of Inception, you know how the puzzle fits together and it is no longer a puzzle, but an answer.

Contrariwise, the human person of a enigmatic (or simply well-done character) offers no such final answer. Take, for instance, Hase, the cheerful male lead of this season's One Week Friends. Hase is a well-done character, and he displays multiple levels of personhood. While we, the audience, can see (quite, easily, I might add) the internal logic that causes Hase to be angry with Fujimiya for talking about Shogo, we still cannot fully grasp the mystery of why a good person becomes jealous. Yes, we understand the surface logic, but it runs deeper than that, and that is the puzzle that cannot be solved.

It is in the human person, for even as well as we may know ourselves, we can never fully know the depths of our person. How then, could we ever hope to fully understand someone else, who is by nature separate from us?
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Well, Phi-Brain is literally about solving puzzles, so you might as well try that.
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So I guess Brazil qualifies as a puzzle film. To be honest, I'm familiar with these films but not the fact that they are labeled as Puzzle Films. You learn something new every day. :)

So, based on this categorization, Steins;Gate would be a puzzle anime. I don't think Angel Beats! and similar VNs are complex enough to qualify, though Higurashi definitely is. Kaiba is a maybe, though it has been quite some time since I've seen it. There are some others that may be possibilities, but since they haven't fully adapted the source material, I'm not mentioning them for now.

As for Satoshi Kon, most of his works could probably qualify. Perfect Blue is the obvious one, but Paprika and Millennium Actress are even more mind-bendy. You should definitely watch Paranoia Agent when you get the chance.
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iblessall wrote:


Insomnist wrote:
I'd assert that they do it by involving puzzles.

Rather, more to the point: they do it by including truly unsolvable puzzles. Ironisms being an example.

Indeed, I agree here. But your use of Hamlet as an example highlights what I think is an important point, and follows along with the point I was trying to make earlier.

When I spoke about characters in my initial post, what I was using them as a metaphor for was the human element, which I think is the greatest puzzle we encounter in art. No sequence of plot events, no matter how obscure or complicated, can match the depth of the complexity of the human person and the human being's potential for self-contradiction and growth.

This is why I say that intrigue is not enough; because once who have seen the trick at the end of Inception, you know how the puzzle fits together and it is no longer a puzzle, but an answer.

Contrariwise, the human person of a enigmatic (or simply well-done character) offers no such final answer. Take, for instance, Hase, the cheerful male lead of this season's One Week Friends. Hase is a well-done character, and he displays multiple levels of personhood. While we, the audience, can see (quite, easily, I might add) the internal logic that causes Hase to be angry with Fujimiya for talking about Shogo, we still cannot fully grasp the mystery of why a good person becomes jealous. Yes, we understand the surface logic, but it runs deeper than that, and that is the puzzle that cannot be solved.

It is in the human person, for even as well as we may know ourselves, we can never fully know the depths of our person. How then, could we ever hope to fully understand someone else, who is by nature separate from us?
I'm glad the Hamlet reference made sense since I don't know my Hamlet.

I agree, it's just interesting how things like form and style can influence how we connect with characters and stories in an aggregate way. The puzzling approach in Stay and Serial Experiments Lain drive you deeper into the story and closer to the characters, for example. And the puzzle films that deal with mental derangement can't help but do so.

    The viewer [...] picks up cues, recalls information, anticipates [...] and generally participates in the creation of the film's form. The film shapes our expectations by summoning up curiosity, suspense, surprise, and other emotional qualities. the ending has the task of satisfying or cheating the expectations prompted by the film as a whole...

    As we examine narrative form, we need to recognize how it engages the viewer in a dynamic activity.


    Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K (2013). Film Art: An Introduction (10th ed.). Pages 72-73.

It's an interesting way to cast an illusion, as well as being a source of entertainment. I think this is one of the major draws of Neon Genesis Evangelion, as well. I don't think I'd call it a puzzle series in the face of Hideaki Anno's denials (a watch requires a watchmaker), but the characters themselves are beautifully constructed, in my opinion.

    I apparently didn't write this quote down... but there was one about how a film is a series of decisions, and that there are filmmakers who go through the process simply making the best decisions to their mind for guiding the audience without an overarching plan, similar to what Hideaki Anno claims to have done with NGE.

    Damn. It was a good quote.

    But for example I can see how much of NGE was made up on the spot, but still works.

Which also spills over into something else I've been mulling over recently which is what makes a character. I guess it's less about what is explicitly depicted (which is still important, though) and more about how what is shown can hint at more that isn't. The pattern must be consistent to give the illusion of inference but it's that illusion that creates "depth".

An epitomic example would be Steven Erikson's A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. There are hundreds if not thousands of named characters in these books (I think I remember reading that there were 250+ named marines alone, not even counting the rest of the military), and every single one comes across as a fully-fledged human being.

(The first book is the weakest, unfortunately, but is much elevated by later context.)

This might be aided by the fact that I think we assume human depth when a character is introduced, at which point the trick is to enhance them without betraying shallowness of character. So you don't have to show the depth, the depth just has to be consistent and influence their actions, and inference and assumption can take care of the rest.


Rawer train of thought:

I think it's theoretically possible for a whole film to do the same, but it might require ditching the classical Hollywood tradition which would alienate a massive majority of your potential audience. It would also undermine climaxes, since ideally the narrowing of possible outcomes could not be allowed to happen (much less resolved).

    In the climax, the action is presented as having a narrow range of possible outcomes... Because the climax focuses possible outcomes so narrowly, it typically serves to settle the causal issues that have run through the film... In such films the ending resolves, or closes off, the chains of cause and effect.

    Emotionally, the climax aims to lift the viewer to a high degree of tension. Since the viewer knows that there are relatively few ways the action can be resolved, she or he can hope for a fairly specific outcome... In the climax of many films, formal resolution coincides with an emotional satisfaction.


    Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K (2013). Film Art: An Introduction (10th ed.). Page 86.

At most a "normal" film that would be accessible to a wide audience could have an open ending, such as in the final decisions of Mass Effect games, which could then promote rewatching the film to see what path the viewer thinks is the most legitimate. This could create an unsolvable loop, but it would still narrow the possible outcomes.

But if not guided to at least that extent, I think most audiences would feel cheated.

It might be possible to have a climax rooted in the characters and not the plot resolution, though. It's been awhile since I saw it but the original Saw might be an example of this. You learned the resolution to the characters and the immediate plot, but the overarching plot, the identity of Jigsaw and his motivations, I think were left enigmatic.

I'd also like to say Jigsaw was a fucking awesome character despite the later, shallower films.
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It has been irking me for a while, and so I will put the one-liner, Phi Brain anime.
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