Barton Fink (discussion)

I just watched this for the second time, and instead of taking the time to write a review, I thought I thought I’d throw out questions and try to “solve” this film with others. Here are some of the questions I have:

  1. Does John Goodman’s character (Charlie Meadows/”Madman” Mundt) represent something? If so, what?
  2. What is the meaning of the picture of the girl on the beach?
  3. Did the hotel really burn down? What is the significance of the burning hotel?
  4. What is the movie about
  5. ?

Any answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated.

6 Responses to “Barton Fink (discussion)”

  1. kevin

    I vaguely remember this movie from many years ago, and remember interpreting it as something about the creative process being on the verge of “flaming madness”, etc. I also recall some sort of “yin-yang” thing going on btwn Goodman and Turturro, and remember the movie feeling really “loose” & surreal so I wasn’t sure if the hotel really was burning or if it represented a vision.

    Was the girl on the beach some sort of idealized muse, or innocence as perfection? There’s also some sort of innocence / violence tension going on also, but I’m not sure what it is. ( This is going to make me want to watch it again. )

  2. Reid


    I think I agree with your interpretation of the relationship between Mundt and Fink, although I can’t explain it. Also, I’ve heard one interpretation that says Fink is the target of the satire.

    The girl on the beach is a picture, but in the end (after Fink finishes what ostensibly is a good screenplay) the exact picture becomes a reality. That seems to signify that Fink reached his goal.

    What about the box, its meaning and contents? What do you think about that?

  3. kevin

    The ending with the picture becoming reality sounds vaguely familiar, but I don’t remember it very well. And the box? I don’t remember no stinkin’ box! Was it a box that John Goodman gives Turturro when everything’s burning? And what’s with this thing with odd directors and boxes with mysterious things inside? (Tarrantino, Coen’s, Lynch.) You could start a weird thread on that.

    I’m totally going to have to watch this movie again.

  4. Mitchell

    I saw this movie and remember almost nothing of what’s been written here.

  5. Reid


    Here’s the way the ending scene happens:

    Fink is walking on the beach carrying the box. He’s just gotten rejected by the Hollywood executive, and he sees a girl in a bathing suit. I can’t remember what they say to each other, but she eventually sits in a pose that is exactly the same as the picture in his room. (The sounds and image of waves crashing is also somewhat prominent in the film.)

    As for the box, Mundt(Goodman) leaves the box with Fink before he leaves. This is after he helps dispose of the body of Audrey (Judy Davis), the assistant/lover of W.P. Mayhew (John Mahoney, as the Faulkner character). Fink learns from the police that Meadows/Mundt cuts the heads off of his victims, so you think he would know what was in the box.

    Anyway, he doesn’t check out the contents of the box once he learns this. Instead, he keeps the box on the table and it seems to inspire him to finish the script. The important thing to remember is that Audrey seems to be the real talent behind Mayhew. It’s as if her murder represents Fink stealing her creativity.

    That reminds me: at first I thought that someone else kills Audrey, but now I wonder if Fink could have done it. Or perhaps, Meadows/Mundt is an alter-ego of Fink’s. I believe when Meadows/Mundt returns, he leaves the box with Fink. I can’t remember what he says to Fink, though.

  6. pen

    I don’t remember much about this movie; although, I do remember the hotel fire. This is strange, but my clearest images of the movie are of Barton not typing at his typewriter while gazing at the picture of the woman on the beach, and the image of the surf pounding onto the shore, hitting that big rock. I remember it, because I think Mitchell yelled, “foreshadowing!” at that point. 😉 I, too, think I will try to watch this movie again. I also remember liking it, but not as much as Miller’s Crossing.

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