COMM 546 - Barton Fink Paper

COMM 546 - Barton Fink Paper - Writing Fiction, Living...

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Writing Fiction, Living Reality; “You’re Just a Tourist with a Typewriter”: An Analysis of Ethan and Joel Coen’s Barton Fink Jake Unger 4/7/10 COMM 546: History of America Screenwriting The Coen Brother’s film, Barton Fink contains many thematic elements such as the restrictive nature of the studio system, the writing process, high vs. low culture, and intellectuals’ disconnect from the common man, in order to display the difficulty of screenwriting due to the artistic constraints of a commercial industry and the screenwriter’s failure to connect with their intended audience. However, the film’s ultimate intention is to highlight the distinction between the creation of fiction and the reality in which individuals live their lives. The Coen brothers wrote the screenplay for Barton Fink in 1989 when they developed writer’s block during the process of drafting Miller’s Crossing (Wikipedia). Although neither of the Coen brothers has said the screenplay was based on personal experiences, the film’s depictions of the Hollywood studio system, intellectuals vs. the common man, and the screenwriting process, would lead one to believe that Barton Fink was strongly influenced by the
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Coen brothers’ personal experiences involving the culture of filmmaking and screenwriting in 1989. Furthermore, even before writing the screenplay, “the Coens knew how the story would end, and wrote Charlie’s final speech at the start of the writing process” (Ciment and Niogret p.177 quoted in Wikipedia). Towards the end of the film, Charlie explodes on the naïve Barton, “you DON’T LISTEN…you think you know about pain? You think I made your life hell? Take a look around this dump. You’re just a tourist with a typewriter Barton. I live here. Don’t you understand that” (script-o-rama.com). While this outburst emphasizes Barton’s disconnect with the common man, it also draws attention to the fact that Barton, or any author for that matter, “is able to leave a story, while characters like Charlie cannot” (Erica Rowell quoted in Wikipedia). Barton’s ability to escape the hellish Hotel Earle, while the people he writes about are stuck there, is a metaphor for a writer’s ability to escape, specifically the Coen brother’s ability to leave a story, while characters in real life cannot. Barton Fink depicts a young screenwriter’s struggle with writer’s block in the early 1940s. Set during a period in Hollywood where, “feminine notions of art [had] been replaced by masculine notions of industry and production”, and where “[o]nce recognized artists…[had] been relegated to functionaries,” (Class Lecture: Beneath the Mogul’s Yoke ), Barton is determined to not become a Hollywood sellout on his quest to write “theatre for the common man.” It is no
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This document was uploaded on 10/28/2011 for the course COMM 546 at UNC.

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COMM 546 - Barton Fink Paper - Writing Fiction, Living...

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