Barton Fink (1991) – Between Heaven or Hell in Hollywood

It’s so funny when I see the poster for this movie. John Turturro’s expression is so genuine. Seeing the mosquitoes on his forehead while imitating a plain idiotic expression. But, the poster actually has a deeper meaning. Mosquitoes can mean a disturbance so that the main character gets up again. Gets up in the sense of seeking a true passion. Or, the energy. Anyway, this film was written by the Coen brothers, 1989. At the same time, they suffered a writer’s block in “Miller’s Crossing,” one year before this film. As if, this film became an outlet for them to be able to escape from saturation. But, “Barton Fink” actually became one of the most successful films of its year. Received three awards at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. Categories include Palme d’Or, John Turturro as Best Actor, and Best Director.

This film is like a true reflection of Hollywood. Not turning the screen of Hollywood is hell but there is another purpose. Coen brothers seem to want to show their inner conflict like a storytime. In fact, this is my favorite Coen Brothers movie in my opinion. Of course, “Barton Fink” is packaged in the Coen brothers style that is so absurd. A lot of weirdness has become its characteristics. Plus, other genres have sprung up. It’s hard to say this movie as a horror movie, drama, thriller, or comedy.

John Turturro as Barton Fink is a broadway scriptwriter. He was very successful in New York. 1941, he reached the peak of his success until he got an offer from the Capitol pictures. There is Michael Learner as Jack Lipnick, a “scum” for Fink. Lipnick tried to offer him as much as possible. However, Fink isn’t such a person. Thinking twice, Barton Fink finally accepted it but was still hesitant to enjoy all the luxury of Hollywood. One of them, of course, is a slum hotel. Fink began the process of writing his first B-Movie script about a wrestler. Therefore, he experienced a writer block and never managed to start writing.

Strange things happen after he met John Goodman as Charlie Meadows, a salesman who lived in the next room. He also kept a feeling for Judy Davis as Audrey Taylor, secretary of W.P. Mayhew. John Mahoney as W.P. Mayhew is an idolized writer. However, his hobby who likes to drink always makes Fink disgust. Various other disturbance such as mosquitoes that appear in his room and wallpaper that is always open. One of the most disturbing things for Barton Fink as well as the audience is a painting: a woman on the beach.

Coen brothers always combine other genres that are so thick. The films are then always stylish. “Barton Fink” is a black comedy but there is a noir genre as well. The impression of horror that arises such as the depiction of the hotel setting is additional. The setting then takes us to Stanley Kubrick’sThe Shining” vibe but it’s Coen brothers. They never try to focus on just one thing. They always combine one genre into another genre.

As usual, Coen also included many themes here, which in the end became two-edged knives. The film feels rich and not monotonous. Fortunately, Barton Fink has a main theme that is packed with strength, so even though sometimes it’s out of focus, there is still one main theme that feels maximum. The theme is, of course, a writer who wrestles with deadlock. For the audience, including me who had felt it, Coen Brothers seemed to know the contents of my mind and transfer it in this film. “Barton Fink” is truly a perfect film.

Behind the screen, what is the film actually telling? Imagine, you are stuck in hell. The hotel is like a hell for Barton Fink. So many things bothered him. Initially felt proud, then became familiar. Including Charlie Meadows. When you are in their midst, imagine you also feel the heat from inside. Experiencing pressure, stress, and floating imagination. Does Barton Fink want to be a writer again? Or want to fight all that? What about running away from hell? It’s just the beginning. Barton Fink was then very familiar with Charlie Meadows who looked from the same side. Then, there is Audrey Taylor who supports it. Turns out, there is a plot twist.

Barton Fink is a strong character. His idealism is very strong in writing a story. He is good at describing something realist. Having a different view from ordinary people, he became an anti-hero. So from that, we need people like Barton Fink in writing stories. The producer just wants a lot of money. They only want action and action films. Not a heavy film full of symbolism. Not a film that is so deep and has thousands of meanings. You get it, right? It’s a satire in everyday life. Not just Hollywood. We only need a simple film. And also realism, poetic.

“Barton Fink” as if David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick direct this movie. With a touch of black comedy, so much symbolism is so real. There is a mosquito even though it never appears but the sound is heard. There are the painting and Barton Fink’s imagination. The sound of the waves, the sounds of the birds, and the lightness of the weather. In fact, one bird that died at the end of the film seemed to conclude everything. Or, what’s in the box? The box held by Barton Fink at the end? We never know.

Simple but beautiful and powerful. John Turturro is so great in this film. He is an innocent character whose thousands of intelligence in his head. In fact, people like Barton Fink can experience a deadlock. John Goodman as Charlie Meadows is so great. The friendship between Barton and Charlie is so warm. However, the warmth will later turn into heat. You never know what will happen. At least, we’ve got a happy ending and its ambitions. Judy Davis is also great. Michael Lerner and John Mahoney are another worthy performance for the support character.

“Barton Fink” is an amazingly satisfying film. The Coen brothers trademark is thick. In my opinion, this is one of the greatest movies ever made. Although, it’s another debatable. The nuance is so comical with the filmmaking technique. There are nuances of horror about the depiction of a slum hotel. Barton Fink is a strong character. As like the man behind its scene. He is great but his prowess turns to hell. It’s a plain character. There is so much symbolism in this film. Ambiguity at the end of the film. Depends on the audience’s interpretation. From here, let the imagination free. There is an intermediary between hell and heaven in Hollywood. Or even in everyday life.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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