Barton Fink is a remarkable accomplishment considering that the Coen brothers wrote it as a distraction from their struggles writing Miller’s Crossing (Rowell 132). Despite only spending three weeks writing the film, the Coen brothers were able to create a layered story in which all their familiar themes such as nightmares, religion, and the common man remain prevalent. The film is a mere projection of the mind of Barton Fink (John Turturro).
That is not to say the film actually takes place inside his mind, however.
The movie is not a dream state, or should I say nightmare, though the events could imply it. Fink feels as if he is trapped throughout the film due to a bad case of writers block. This being reflective of the Coen brother’s reason for writing the movie, though they reject the idea that they had writers block (Ciment and Niogret 172), the feeling of mental entrapment bleeds onto the screen. A culmination of brilliant acting, writing, and directing allowed this to be accomplished.
The long and lonely shots of Fink in his apartment, decorated with cruddy wall paper and a single photograph, with simple audible noises in the background are reminiscent of a writer lacking inspiration; left with nothing but quietness and frustration. All of those elements play into the nightmarish theme of the film. Much like a nightmare, or even a dream, the most memorable parts of the film are the only parts that allow for any sense of clarity. For example Fink’s interactions with Charlie (John Goodman).
When the two interact the viewer becomes fully engrossed in the conversation; though unsure of the purpose of the relationship. Until the end, however, when it is revealed that Charlie is a psychopathic serial killer simply playing head games with Barton as retaliation to the noise complaint earlier in the film. In accordance with nightmares the Hotel Earle is symbolic for hell; much like the mental hell Barton is going through. Simple events throughout, such as the wall paper coming undone and Charlie constantly covered in sweat, imply the intense heat that they live in at the hotel.
When Barton first checks in, Chet (Steve Buschemi), comes out of an underground room as if he has come from an underworld. Conveniently, Chet places Barton on the 6th floor and the conversation between Barton and the elevator attendant is nothing more than three mentions of the number six (Rowell 156). The climax of the film is the ultimate imagery of hell, however. When Charlie returns only to murder the two cops then light the 6th floor of the Hotel Earle ablaze we not only witness the hellish symbolism but Barton experiences his own realization of the hell he has been living in since leaving New York.
The comparison of the Hotel Earle to hell is in itself a jab at the entire industry of Hollywood. Essentially the Coen brothers are comparing the process of creating films for the Hollywood studios as hell; an opinion that seems popular among writers. The film does, however, take it a step further by having the film studio Capitol Studios mirror a fascist Nazi regime. The boss, Jack Lipnick (Michael Lerner), treats Barton as if he owns his soul and repeatedly calls him a “kike. ” Not coincidently, the Coen brothers decided to set the story in 1941 to coincide with WWII as well.
There are other numerous corresponding fascist and Nazi elements throughout the film. For example, when Lipnick is berating Barton after reading his film he does it in full military uniform all the while criticizing writer’s philosophy as if they’re all the same; much like the way Nazi’s viewed Jewish people. In Roger Egbert’ review of the film he mentions the Coen brothers created an allegory to the rise of Nazism stating that, “They paint Fink as an ineffectual and impotent left-wing intellectual, who sells out while telling himself he is doing the right thing.
” It is worth noting, however, that goes on to say, “It would be a mistake to insist too much on this aspect of the movie. ” Whether or not one believes their intentions leaned toward the fascist symbolism is irrelevant, however. When there are so many hints or elements that create these ideas of symbolism we owe it to ourselves to analyze these things that help create great movie experiences.
Cite this Psychological Thriller Film “Barton Fink”
Psychological Thriller Film “Barton Fink”. (2016, Sep 03). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/psychological-thriller-film-barton-fink/