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  • Writer's pictureDomenic

Barton Fink| Review

Updated: May 31, 2022

There are certain nods to the idea of human purpose throughout Barton Fink that echo the ideas of filmmaking and the people involved with it. Long have philosophers and scholars debated on the purpose of humanity and those of individuals. And certainly, films have been made about these ideas, yet they all somewhat follow the same characteristics. They don't show the events leading up to that person's questioning of their purpose. Rather, they just show the time of speculation on one's purpose that plays out. For instance, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty doesn't examine Walter's entire life, but instead just his adulthood and the philosophical questions he encounters. Also, the film isn't good and doesn't remotely dismiss the notion that the ideas and themes present in that film couldn't work in another film.

When a director has finished their job behind the camera, the screenwriter has completed their final draft, and the actors have performed their best, and the project is over, everyone involved is now left to find out what they want to do with their lives. The journey they have embarked on to complete the film is now completely finished. Essentially, their entire function as artists is to serve the production studio in their completion of the film. When the film is over, they no longer have value to the studios. Barton Fink takes and molds these ideas and philosophies about the movie-making process into an exceptional film about the industry and the people involved.

What's infamous about Barton Fink is that it accomplishes an almost labyrinth-like atmosphere. The hotel, in particular, with its long and narrow halways accompanied by an almost eerie silence and absence of life, exempiflies a nearly perfectly created feeling. Barton Fink's room, centered in the middle of the hotel's string of rooms, conjunres up a prison cell like atmosphere. There are merely two windows accompanied by only the necessities of a room, illuminating that he is in fact trapped in this environment. Likewise, the outside world showcased in this film is all too different than our own. In it, the streets are filled with silence, not in the sense of peace but more of a surreal feel. Cars rarely pass by and people are hardly seen. It's as if he is living in a nightmare, which would be further elaborated by the narrative.

A successful playwright, Barton Fink, receives an invitation to move to Los Angeles in the pursuit of writing a screenplay for a motion picture company. Upon moving to the area, he uncovers the deep terror that lurks beneath the city. For the first week, he resides in a room at a local hotel, and later befriends his next door neighbor. As the movie progresses, Barton learns more about his neighbor, for which he initially considered goofy, and the alarming aspects of his past. Meanwhile, Barton also learns of the hellish enviorment of the movie industry and its inhabitants. As the movie concludes, one of the most complex and infamous final scenes plays out.

The construction of the film, with its slow and deliberate progression in suspense, achieves nearly the best in cinematic story telling. The final scene, as hectic as it is, feels as though the entire film has been building up to it. Not in the sense of narrative wise, but more in the feeling of atmosphere and overall disruption. Not only were the Coen brothers able to build to this moment in the film through the narrative, but also through the entire atmosphere of the film, ultimately bringing it home as a film worthy of analysis. Evidently, Barton Fink begs to be academically studied, and under such precautions, a lesson in the combination of narrative and visual storytelling is taught. If not for the some hiccups in the plot, then it would be nearly perfect.

Time Stamp: May 2021

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