#15 Barton Fink (cont.)

Ok, so I read a bit more about this movie and I even felt ashamed, how could I be so blind? This piece is so complex (and yet seem so simple at the Coen brothers’ eyes) that I thought to myself: “Man, who am I to talk about this? I know nothing!”. It’s true, I have a long, long way to go yet. But well, that’s how we learn.

The things I said about it were right, but incomplete, as I didn’t understand them. From what I read, we get, in fact, the feelings the movie gives us: unsettlement, tension, etc., but I, at least, didn’t get how they were given. Now I know, but it’s almost like subliminal messages (like the word “head” appearing like 60 times, leading us to believe that the package Charlie gives Barton contains Audrey’s) and, in my opinion, that’s why it’s so good. For example, one of the things I found most amazing is the hotel and the Charlie character: the hotel was meant to represent Charlie himself and was meant to be empty, creepy and old. It’s empty alright, we never see anybody, but on the other hand we see the shoes of all Fink’s neighbors in the corridor. And that’s kind of creepy. As for Charlie, the heat and the paper falling off the wall is a mirror to his hear infection and the pus it leaks (ew). Another thing I found fascinating was the colors they use: they intentionally used yellow and green in the room to resemble putrefaction. I don’t know about you, but I felt something was not very well there, and I couldn’t identify it. I would never guessed this one too!

The movie is placed in the WWII so it has many references to it too. I was never very good at history, particularly this part, so… yeah, i have to study more this things. As I said, that’s how we learn too (I’m not making an excuse, it really is!).

I’m not going to write all of what I read because it would be endless, but I got to understand many things I didn’t that made me realize how awesome this movie is and how good the Coen brothers’ are at what they do, And from their comments, they seem to do it very easily. I’m just going to point out the stuff I talked about in the previous post:

.The picture of the woman: it represents a n escape, for Barton’s room has no view or anything interesting or colorful. When I read this, it made sense to me. And thinking about it I can relate it to his “slavery” to Capitol Pictures, it is now the only glimpse of freedom he has in Hollywood. At the end, when the picture appears again, this time in front of him in flesh and bone, one might think that he is now really free, meaning that he knows he still works for Capitol Pictures and all her writings belong to them, but he doesn’t care, because he now knows what he is and what he wants, and will not bend for that corporation, however much they want him to.

.The sink hole: ir represents the sex they were having. You know, the dark hole and all… well, I didn’t get it and I know of this symbolism, but…

.The mosquitoes: I still don’t know, but upon my readings I could say it’s a symbol of Barton Fink’s confusion with reality maybe?… The whole hotel is surreal though…

.The heat: as I already tell, it’s associated with Charlie and his infection (ew).

.The flames: I still don’t know so I maintain my statement. Is it a metaphor for all the evil in Hollywood? Adding another theory: Charlie looks like the Devil in there, so could it be a metaphor for all the malice he intentionally brought to Barton?

.The crashing wave: it’s a sign of changing places.

I don’t know if I made myself clear in my review, but maybe I can explain myself better now, with some additions I came upon. I initially didn’t like Barton ’cause a found him very pretentious. And he was. He thought he was making a good thing with all the “common man” concept. And he was. But upon the challenge of writing a wrestling script, he blocks. He says without pain there’s no good piece of art. But he doesn’t listen to his common neighbor for he thinks he’s to simple to understand his complex ideas and doesn’t even let him speak (which is a problem Charlie apparently faces in his everyday life: his costumers are often rude to him, and he doesn’t have the opportunity to let that frustration out, not even there with Fink ’cause he’s not letting him!). So Charlie “does him a favor” and brings him a good amount of pain for him to open his eyes and see everyone faces pain and “the common man” is not below Barton Fink. Before knowing Charlie’s a killer, Barton unblocks himself by standing next to Charlie’s box and the woman’s picture, so, in a way, he can write because he’s now knowing pain and Audrey is helping in that way too (lol). In the end, Barton has changed from a pretentious man who thinks he’s the only who has a complex “life of the mind” to a “common man” with same problems all of us have and we see this smooth evolution, ending up liking him more than in the beginning.

So this is it, I hope you now can understand a bit more Barton Fink as I did! With movies like this we can learn to appreciate and understand these kind of “movie elements” that lead us to conclusions, even if we don’t know how or don’t realize it at the moment.



#14 Barton Fink

barton-fink_387866_24295Year: 1991

Directors and Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

I don’t even know how to classify Barton Fink. Is it a drama? A comedy? Sci-fi? Thriller? I don’t know. And I understood the story but there are some elements I thought were very important, but I just didn’t get them!

That guy up there is Barton Fink, a writer who aspires to make something different, something that relates to people, to the common man, as he says, a new kind of play that has nothing to do with the unrealistic dramas that are often displayed on theaters, but one that shows the real pain of the common man. I find this very cute and all, but I didn’t like his attitude towards the “common” people he found around him. He clearly thinks he’s a great thing, but he also seems frightened for people having great expectations of him. The way he says “people like you” irritates me, like he’s above “the common man” he so wants to reach. He thinks the common man wants to hear about pain and that without pain there’s no great work (writing), but he seems to forget that his pain is not the same as other people’s. He says he feels it, but I didn’t find anything that could have caused him the pain he so adores… He didn’t have any drama to tell, so I thought he was basically a hipster. Well, he says he’s often surrounded by many people but feels very lonely… isn’t this a cliché anyone can say?… But the poor guy also seems so dorky! He seems so silly, no one ever would give a rat’s butt for him, with his funny legs, groovy hair and round glasses! It had some funny scenes there! I guess in the end, we can say he really is just a common man, caught in the webs of Hollywood (?).

The story goes like this: Barton Fink just did a play that granted him great success in NY and so he gets called to go to Hollywood to write on a movie about wrestlers… They give him a “formula” to a successful wrestling movie, but he just does not like that kind of thing. Everyone expects great things of him, as I already said, so he starts to feel the pressure. He has problems starting the play and almost doesn’t get it ready on his deadline. But his boss, who was the most enthusiastic person about the great Barton Fink, ends up disliking the script.

When he arrives in Hollywood he decides to stay in a cheap hotel, you know, just in case he forgets his roots as a common man. That was his fear, btw, before accepting the job in Hollyood: go there for a while and make a big amount of cash, betraying his ideals of a simple but dramatic life (an artist is always dramatic, don’t be fooled), or stay in NY and stay close to his common audience as it should be? He chooses Hollywood, but is hesitating. Anyway, at that hotel he meets Charlie, his next door neighbor, to whom he becomes friends. We see from the moment Charlie appears that theres a little something going on there… The man is a bit odd, but friendly. He’s an odd friend, always very caring, smiling, and drinking whiskey.

When they first meet, we can see right away how Fink is self-centered: he realizes how “common” Charlie is, with his little job and his little “common frustrations” and gets really excited ’cause Charlie understands his concept, so talks non-stop, never giving an opportunity for his new friend to say something, always putting himself high above with his intellectual speech.

(I didn’t find a video that can play here, so you’ll have to click this link to see the only clip I found with the exact scene I want to show… sorry.)

“To put it in your language”?? Came on… Well, moving on. He is advised to get some inspiration from other writers to see if he can get started. Accidentally he meets one of his idols, W. P. Mayhew, vomiting in the bathroom. The two get together, along with Mayhew’s secretary (and lover), Audrey. Barton realizes the man’s a drunk who mistreats Audrey and also discovers she’s the one writing his most recent books. The two end up making love in Barton’s room and she shows up dead next to him the next morning.  He then asks Charlie’s help, who is ready to help getting rid of the body and believes Fink’s affirmation that he’s sure he didn’t do anything. Of course he didn’t, because Charlie is a mad man who’s wanted by the police for murdering several people and behead them. There’s an earlier scene where we see Barton trying on his shoes but they don’t fit ’cause they’re too large, so Charlie shows up with Barton’s shoes, saying the hotel must have swapped them (the hotel has a service where they polish the customers’ shoes, so they always leave them at the room’s doors, in the corridor). To me this was strange and gave me the impression Charlie’s been in Fink’s room. Eventually, two detectives come asking some questions to Fink and let him know Charlie is in fact called Karl Mundt, known for “Madman Mundt”, and he’s wanted for those reasons I stated, and that they found another body (Audrey’s) but the head’s missing. Charlie’s not at the hotel at this moment as he said he was going to leave for a few days to NY, leaving Fink a package, stating it’s his most beloved belongings. With the excitement of a new friendship, (moreover a common man lol), Fink gives Charlie his parents’ contact and tell him that if he needs anything, to just stop by. But when the detectives are questioning Fink, Charlie returns, literally out of the flames, and kills them. Then he says he lied to Barton, and the package isn’t his. We are also told Mayhew is dead too and Barton gets the feeling he shouldn’t have given his parent’s contact to Charlie, moreover when he says he paid them a visit.

Barton then goes talk with Mr. Lip Lipnick, his “boss”, and hears the guy doesn’t like his script. So he goes off to the beach and finds a beautiful woman there, who asks him what’s in his box, as he’s carrying the package with him. He says he doesn’t know and doesn’t even know if it’s his, so I assumed Audrey’s head was in it. The girl sits in front of him, staring at the ocean, and Barton realizes he’s staring at the image he saw in his room. Barton Fink, who thought he knew pain, got to really know it in Hollywood after all.


This is one of the things I didn’t understand: there was a picture in his room with a girl on the beach, and Barton looks at it a lot. Another thing I didn’t get was, when he made love to Audrey, the camera led us to the sink and faded into an image of what looked like a sewer (???) and then it’s morning and Barton wakes up next to the corpse. He only realizes it’s already a corpse because he slaps her in the arm to kill a mosquito, and blood starts showing on the bed. This is yet another thing I didn’t get: he’s always bitten by mosquitos and always has to say to other people “it’s just a mosquito bite”, because they always seem to notice that. Why? And why is always so damn hot in his and Charlie’s rooms, to the point the wallpaper starts to fall off? And why is that heat associated with Charlie? And why does Charlie seems the Devil in the middle of the flames on the hotel’s corridor??? Is it a metaphor, to Hollywood’s tough reality maybe? Because no one seems to care if the goddamned place is on fire! I don’t get this! Also: a wave crashing into a rock? What’s that?!

barton-fire  Maybe I should do some research before coming here to tell what I think, but as I said before, I don’t want to say stuff coming out of other people’s mouth, I want to put my brain to work and try to figure it out myself, and then go see if I got it right! I guess in cases like this, I don’t have another option. I’m going to read more about this and when I got things figured out, I’ll write another post explaining. You are most welcome to help me out here! If you understand what those things mean, feel free to leave your comment!