BARTON FINK Screenplay By Ethan Coen & Joel Coen FADE IN: ON BARTON FINK He is a bespectacled man in his thirties, hale. Barton Fink Script taken from a transcript of the screenplay and/or the Coen Brothers movie. Barton Fink screenplay [Joel Coen, Ethan Coen] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. February 19, draft Original Screenplay.
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Unavoidable on any respectable top of the nineties list, impossible to be precisely classified in genre terms, rich and nuanced to the degree of not being able to believe it took only three weeks for the Coens to write the script, Barton Fink is a full-blooded example of what came to be called typical Coenesque filmmaking. Unforgettable characters, heavy-dialogued script, palpable, haunting atmosphere and a rather unique visual style—all the ingredients are here in abundance, and Coens make the most of them with the genius assistance of the highly talented John Turturro and John Goodman.
Since Barry Sonnenfeld went to make his own film, The Addams FamilyJoel and Ethan had to find someone to replace the cinematographer with whom they worked on their first three films.
But Barton Fink successfully resists screenplaj simplification, and the authors themselves fended off inquiries regarding what the screenpay means. Intelligent and splendidly shot, with an inescapable feeling of dread and anticipation most horror films would kill for, Barton Fink is, to put it plainly, simply remarkable. A monumentally important screenplay. For educational and research purposes only.
Absolutely our highest recommendation.
The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)
From PositifSeptember Michel Ciment and Hubert Niogret. This interview took place in Cannes on May 20, How did you come to write this kind of film? In order to escape from the problems that we were experiencing with that project, we began to think about a project with a different theme. That was Barton Finkwhich had two origins. In the first place, we were thinking about putting John Turturro to work—we had known him well for a long time—and so we wanted to invent a character he could play and then there was the idea of a huge abandoned hotel.
This idea came even before our decision to set the story in Hollywood. This is one of the reasons why these two films were released rather close to one another. Why did you set the action inwhich was a key era for Hollywood writers? Fitzgerald and Nathanael West had just died, Preston Sturges and John Huston, who had been screenwriters, had just begun careers in directing. In retrospect, we were enthusiastic about the idea that the world outside the hotel was finding itself on the eve of the apocalypse since, for America, was the beginning of the Second World War.
That seemed to us to suit the story. The other reason—which was never truly realized in the film—was that we were thinking of a hotel where the lodgers were old people, the insane, the physically handicapped, because all the others had left for the war. The further the script was developed, the more this theme got left behind, but it had led us, in the beginning, to settle on that period. Another reason was the main character: It seemed natural that he comes from Group Theater and the decade of the thirties.
The character had somewhat the same background, in terms of being a writer, as Clifford Odets; only the resemblance ends there. Both writers wrote the same kind of plays with proletarian heroes, but their personalities were quite different. Odets was much more of an extrovert; in fact he was quite sociable even in Hollywood, and this is not the case with Barton Fink!
Odets the man was moreover quite different from Odets the writer. There was a great deal of passion and innocence in him. Have you read the journal Odets wrote during the year ? John Turturro was the one who really read it. But you have to take account of the difference between the character and the man.
Turturro was also interested by the style of the Group Theater plays. At the opening of the film, the voice that you hear off camera is that of Turturro, and, at the end, when he taps out a scene from his screenplay on the typewriter, it is meant to be in the Odets style. The character of W. Mayhew is, in turn, directly inspired by Faulkner. Yes, the southern writer, an alcoholic. Certainly we chose John Mahoney for this role because of his resemblance to Faulkner, but also because we are very eager to work with him.
And yet, that was only somewhere to start, and the parallel between the two is pretty superficial.
As far as the details of the character are concerned, Mayhew is very different from Faulkner, whose experiences in Hollywood were not the same at all. Certainly Faulkner showed the same disdain for Hollywood that Mayhew does, but his alcoholism did not incapacitate him, and he continued to be a productive writer.
Did you get the inspiration for Jack Lipnick, the producer, from Louis Screenplaay. Michael Lerner looks a little like Mayer, but Lipnick is really an amalgamation of several figures. The incident with the uniform, for example, comes from the life of Jack Warner, who arranged that an army commission be given him and demanded that the studio costume bzrton make him a uniform. Lipnick also has his vulgar barhon, rather like Harry Cohn.
One of the most characteristic qualities of your films and of Barton Fink in particular is the fact that their structures are completely unpredictable. Do you put together your screenplays with barhon in mind? In this case, we had the shape of the narrative in mind from the very beginning. The fnk was freer than usual and we were aware that, toward the middle, the story would take a radical turn.
We wanted the beginning of the film to have a certain rhythm and to involve the viewer in a kind of journey. When Fink wakes up and discovers the corpse beside him, we wanted this to be a surprise, and yet not clash with everything that comes before. We were aware that we would be walking a very thin line here. We needed to surprise the viewer without disconnecting him from the story. At what stage did you start thinking of the picture of the woman on the beach that figures in the last sequence?
Our intention was that the room would have very little decoration, that the walls would be bare and that the windows would offer no view of any particular interest. In fact, we wanted the only opening on the exterior world to be this picture. It seemed important to us to create a feeling of isolation. Our strategy was to establish from the very beginning that the main character was experiencing a sense of dislocation.
The picture of the beach was to give a vision of the feeling of consolation. I do not know exactly why we became fixed on this detail, but it was no doubt a punctuation mark that, in effect, did further the sense of oppression in the room. With the sequence where Fink crushes the mosquito, the film moves from social comedy into the realm of the fantastic.
Some people have suggested that the whole second part of the film is nothing but a nightmare. But it was never our intention to, in any literal sense, depict some bad dream, and yet it is true that we were aiming for a logic of the irrational. We wanted the film s atmosphere to reflect the psychological state of the protagonist.
It is correct to say that we wanted the spectator to share the interior life of Barton Fink as well as his point of view. But there was no need to go too far.
For example, it would have been incongruous for Barton Fink to wake up at the end of the film and for us to suggest thereby that he actually inhabited a reality greater than what is depicted in the film.
There is another element that comes into play with this scene. No one knows what has killed Audrey Taylor. We did not want to exclude the possibility that it was Barton himself, even though he proclaims his innocence several times.
It is one of the conventions of the classic crime film to lay out false trails as long as scrednplay for the scrrenplay. That said, our intention was to keep the ambiguity right to the end of the film. What is suggested, however, is that the crime was committed by Charlie, his next-door neighbor. From this point of view, the choice of John Goodman to play Charlie Meadows was inspired because he has usually been given more appealing roles and because the viewer sympathizes with him during the first scenes of the film.
This role too was written for the comedian, and we were quite obviously aware of the warm and friendly image that he projects for the viewer and with which he feels at ease. We played on this expectation by reversing it. Even so, from the moment he appears, there is something menacing, disquieting about this character. The fact that Barton Fink uses working-class characters in his plays obliges him to be friendly to Meadows because if not he would show himself full of prejudice.
Charlie is, of course, equally aware of the role that Barton Fink intends for him to play, if in a somewhat perverse way. It is ironic that it was up to him to pass judgment on a film where The Tenant and Cul-de-Sac meet Repulsion. Obviously, we scgeenplay been influenced by his films, but at this time we were very hesitant to speak to him about it because we did not sdreenplay to give the impression we were sucking up.
Barton Fink does not belong to any genre, but it does belong to a series, certainly one that Roman Polanski originated. One thinks also of The Shining and of the imaginative world of Kafka, of the black humor and Jewish culture of Central Europe. All this is true enough, except that The Shining belongs in a more global sense to the horror film genre.
How did you divide up work on the screenplay? We handle this in a very informal and simple way Batron discuss each screeplay together in detail without ever dividing up the writing on any.
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Ordinarily, we spend four months on the first draft, and then show it to our friends, and afterward we devote two further months to the finishing touches. What is your explanation for the rapid writing of Barton Fink?
In any case, it was very easy. You know how they will be, visually speaking, and, without knowing exactly how they will end, you have some intuition about the kind of emotion that will be evident at the conclusion. Other scenarios, in contrast, are a little like journeys that develop in stages without your ever truly knowing where they are heading. With this film, we knew as a practical matter where Barton Fink would be at the end.
We have to say we felt we knew these characters pretty well, maybe because finkk are very close to the two comedians, which made writing their roles very easy. It is true that Barton Fink has a much narrower scope. How did the title come to mind? It seems it wound up being what it was by complete chance.
There is a great deal of humor in the film, from the moment when the wallpaper starts peeling off the wall until the pair of policemen arrives on the scene. In fact the combination of drama with comedy is perhaps more evident in Barton Fink than in the films that preceded it.