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1991, Dir. Joel Coen
116 min. Rated R.
Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, John Mahoney.

Review by Bobby Jones


These are three different articles by three different people. The comparison seems amazing at first but when you really get down to it, these aspects of Barton Fink are quite obvious. Perhaps the quirky little things in the film, like the ever-peeling wallpaper and the beach photo simply throw us off from the real intent of this film. When I first saw this film I was determined to find some deep, metaphorical meaning to the peeling wallpaper. Now I'm not so sure. The most obvious observations are generally the best, and like Chad wrote, maybe the wallpaper is there simply to represent Barton's "coming apart at the seams." My point is just that. The answers are usually right there on the surface. The Coens' movies have odd people and weird events that only serve to mask a very simple story usually involving a relationship between the body and the spirit; The logical aspect of a person (HEAD) and the emotional aspect (HEART). Using this interpretation for the Coens' films is very simple and very complex at the same time.

There are, however, two aspects of Chad's interpretation that really don't gel with my opinions of the movie. My intent here is not to create a point of debate but to bring out a better understanding of the film by comparing the two views. Please note that I understand the fact that the theory Chad came up with is not necessarily his personal views, but one of many ways of looking at the film.

1. In his third paragraph, Chad writes that "Barton's hell is relative, and, in comparison to reality, petty and trivial". Now, I know that this is a longshot and maybe that's the point. When something is relative then it can't be compared to anything else. If Barton's hell is relative and petty compared to reality then this reality is relative and just as petty depending on whose reality it is. Confusing, I know. But stop and think about it for a moment. Barton has his own reality. Everyone does. In that case, how can one reality be right and another be wrong? If you take the view that everything is relative then it is neither right nor wrong. It just is. Now, I don't necessarily believe that this is the main theme that the Coens were trying to convey, but I do believe that every angle of thinking helps to understand the whole. Barton's personal hell may seem petty at first but if it and everything else is indeed relative then his emotional problems are just as viable as, say, millions of starving children in Ethiopia.

2. Chad's theory of the intent of the artist. I don't think that the Coens would make a movie just to make a point. It seems to me that if Barton Fink is simply a comment on the "atist" that all it would be doing is just that. Making a point, I believe that the core of the movie runs much deeper than this, perhaps even on a subconscious level. This theory would explain many of the bizarre characters and events that take place in their films...


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