As the Coen brothers set out to win the Palme d’Or Barton fink in 1991, they had already released the police drama Simple blood, eccentric kind Elevate Arizona and the crossing of the miller, a cauldron of comedy and melodrama with a dash of political satire. The family duo were not (and never were) tied to gender constraints, with their next film, Barton fink becoming one of their most creative and eclectic films to date, combining elements of comedy, horror, noir and coming-of-age drama to create an innovative surreal experience.
Set in 1941, John Turturro plays an intellectual New York playwright called Barton Fink, sporting a puffy hairstyle and delicate round-rimmed glasses, who accepts a complimentary invitation to a film scriptwriting role in Los Angeles. Arrived in supposed Hollywood paradise, Turturro’s Fink settles into the inexpensive Earle Hotel, a tired room decorated only with a small painting of a woman on a beach.
Assigned to write a screenplay for a B-movie about wrestling, Fink experiences a rather bizarre case of writer’s block in which he is distracted by increasingly surreal situations.
Describing the hotel as a “drifting ghost ship, where you notice signs of other passengers, but never notice”, by the Coen brothers in conversation with Positive in 1991. Fink’s surroundings are drab, drab and stagnant, a good illustration of the state of its own writers’ quarter, the hotel itself drawing astonishing similarities to The brilliants Overlook Hotel, speaking about the surreal horror of the character’s reality. Confronting modern cinema with classic Hollywood technique, the Coen brothers manage to create an enigmatic film with evocations of 1930s cinema, captured with contemporary cinematography.
Spiraling on a surreal skull travel, Barton Fink agonizes with creative panic, letting his subconscious imagination rebound in unleashed joy, exemplified by bizarre fantasies and absorbing dream sequences. With several theories about the central character’s true mental reality, many have suggested that much of the movie actually takes place in a separate, imaginary fantasy in Fink’s mind.
Further, however, it was the Coen’s intention to simply place the viewer in the fractured mind of the protagonist himself, noting in the same conversation recorded in Postive, “We wanted the viewer to share Barton Fink’s inner life and his point of view.” Continuing, the directors add, “It would have been incongruous for Barton Fink to wake up at the end of the film and thus suggest that he actually inhabits a reality greater than what is portrayed in the film. Anyway, it is always artificial to speak of “reality” about a fictional character “.
Recognizing several cinematic influences for the film, including that of Roman Polanski Repulsion, Cul-de-Sac and The tenant, the Coen brothers wanted to use a similar mood of psychological surrealism that would form mental instability for their main character. It all leads to a twisted ball of intricate cinema that interweaves multiple genre styles while tackling a frenzy of complex topics, including the difference between theater and cinema, as well as the painstaking creative process of screenwriting.
By imbuing this with a tale mixed with surrealism and a preoccupation with the concepts of fascism and religion, you get one of the most narratively complex films of the Coen brothers, a feverish dream snatched from eccentric minds. coupled with two masters of cinema.
‘Barton Fink’ – Joel and Ethan Coen