Barton Fink-There’s much more to the life of a common man
by Salil Shankar
**This text contains spoilers, reader, please read only if you have seen this film**
As usual there is something unique about a Coen Brothers film, and usually, it is possible that you don’t figure out everything when you watch it, my previous outing with Coens was a sweet one (Miller’s Crossing) the extremely unpredictable crime film, that was an unexpected genre film (1st of the only 2 genre films they have made, other being a western, rather Not-so-great (in my opinion) True Grit) from their side. Now coming back to the point, yes, Barton Fink, a Playwright, who is called by Hollywood, an opportunity, people die for, he is sceptical, why, maybe he is not sure, whether the more commercial Hollywood can take him the way he is, now here it is the first act, the hotel (definitely inspired by overlook and shot with inspiration from and homage to Kubrick) begins with an unending ring, he can’t write in that environment, cuz he is distracted, more by his motivation less, uninspired decision to take this task, of writing a wrestling B picture story, and in an inappropriate manner, turning the blame on noise created by the occupant next door, who in turn comes, apologizes and befriends him.
Now here lies the conflict and greatness, the conflict that a common man, how is he less than a king, the basic need of a common man is, someone could pay attention to him, or someone could help him, be with him, yet the human being, once he finds an opportunity, he starts imposing, on the other guy, who might be looking for equal measures of attention or maybe peace, and may be, Fink’s activities, might be disturbing the other guy as well. Now let’s take it to a broader perspective, maybe, fink, is the wrong person to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, let’s say, a tasteful playwright, in business oriented Hollywood at the time of World War II, or a sexually suppressed man, in a hotel room (with the next occupant being a madman) lying next to a dead body. It’s so deliberate, that the conflict going on inside the mind is synchronized with immediate physical surrounding synchronized with environment completely (it happened with ‘A Serious Man’ as well, I didn’t like that film though).
Of-course, the Hollywood big studio system, which doesn’t care for beauty or poetry, all they want is a commercial marketable story, which this film shows Hollywood as hell for creative people.
Now another aspect of it, Fink says ‘Common Man’, without completely understanding the complexity of it, a common man, is someone with whom something uncommon is going on, maybe a killer, killed someone to help the one being killed, or maybe he killed someone in order to make someone else realize, that he should stop his stupid activities that might be disturbing him(let’s say Fink making love and those sounds they make, might disturb Charlie), or maybe he killed someone, just to defend his ground or even simple, an urge to divert attention towards his pain. Now we will expand it, to a broader perspective, a playwright, he got his own taste of stories, he is being asked to write a story of a B picture, now in his mind, this foolish thought comes,(MY STANDARDS ARE TOO HIGH YOU TASTELESS DORK) and feels he is distracted, though he gets signals from different people, for example “Writing is peace”, for any writer, continuous writing becomes the point, instead of making a fool out of himself by saying stuff like “it comes from within”, now how are we expanding it, Hollywood gives a writer an opportunity to create and it pays high, but the writer is making excuses, thinking that place (read Hollywood) where he is staying sucks, and is irritated by fellow inmates(read citizens), doing stupid activities, trying to find some kind of entertainment, instead of writing, but he doesn’t realize, that may be, his activities, might be irritating other inmates(read citizens) and in the due course of time, he might be disturbing that place itself, and that place is a place, its hot, and you mess with it, hell breaks loose upon you, perhaps that’s the personification, or may be the physical interpretation of the disaster that has happened, but in the end, Fink, does write the story, it is rejected, yes, but he is on contract, so it means, he will be paid, it also means, he can hope and as for now, that visual pleasure by the sea side, is his, the bad guy is out for war and he doesn’t know what’s there in the box, may be something good. Happy Ending, may be, that’s how I take it.
And of-course there are references to religion (Bible), racism (“Jewish name”), World war II and Hail Hitler, those are the messages, I couldn’t really get, because of my lack of knowledge, and that’s my retrospective of Barton Fink, perhaps a great, great film!!! And of-course comment section is open, add to it, your retrospective, we can talk. J