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...
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