Graham Greene once wrote:
The second-rate cinema mind has always been attracted to symbolism – the apple blossom falling in the rain, the broken glass, all the sham poetic ways of avoiding the direct statement, which demands some insight into the way men really act.
In the same piece, he describes the overused technique of filming an old man about to die. Rather than showing his death, the camera settles on the stylus of a gramophone scraping at the end of the record.
I agree completely with Graham in his take on symbolism. The trouble with symbols is that they invite clichés. An artist that uses a grand symbol may think he is being pretty clever. He may even fool himself into believing that he is doing something that has never been done before. Of course, everything has been done before and then done again. Today’s screenwriter knows that avoiding clichés is an essential part of good writing. Without any completely original ideas to work from, many writers like to start with a cliché and turn it on its head. They will write something a little different by defying an expectation. In any case, the result should be far more interesting that resorting to symbolism. A writer will never have cause to pat themselves on the back for coming up with a clever symbol.