I'm listening to a radio interview with Mike Leigh, one of my favorite filmmakers, and the interviewer keeps hammering at him about what the symbols mean in his latest film. I love his answers. When asked about the symbolism of his main character's large circular earrings possibly meaning a deluded happiness that's locked in a cycle, and her taking the earrings off indicating a new way of looking at the world, Leigh politely but firmly tells him that most earrings are symmetrical by their very function, and she took them off because the next scene they filmed required a lot of tussling and struggle and the earrings made too much noise on the soundtrack. Then the interviewer asks him if the character's back pain symbolizes a reluctance to look at her past. Leigh: "You are plainly a fundamental unreconstituted top-rate intellectual, which I am not. I think it's fascinating, your analysis, but I think it's a load of old rope. I can't go along with it at all."
There is so much depth and mystery and substance lodged right on the surface of great work, and people are so afraid to deal with it directly and plainly, so they have to go symbol hunting. It's like all the music critics I used to read but now generally avoid who spend most of their word count analyzing the meanings of the lyrics, without once making an attempt to find a way of talking about the sound of these words, as sounds, as a part of the texture of sound created by the people performing the music.