Aaron Smith’s Response Journal


Barton Fink Follow Up

Leslie wrote a great response to my previous entry so I’ll post my comment here:

Perhaps the beauty of Barton Fink is that it counts on our natural and involuntary tendency to read the film like we read The Singing Detective–to separate the objective fabula from the subjective. But in Barton Fink, such a task is impossible. Ultimately, because we can’t distinguish between reality and the fantasy, we may consider the entire film to be subjective. Perhaps the message, if there is any, is that all filmmaking is subjective and that it is the role of the viewer to construct objectivity from it. Even though there are always filters and slants in film, we still consider impersonal shots to be truth. (unless we know for sure that the character is dreaming, thinking, or hallucinating)

Distinguishing between the real and the not real is important to me, no matter how fruitless, because it changes how I construct the objective truth and the fabula at large. And I need to find some shred of objective truth. I can’t consider the whole thing to be imagined because I’d feel cheated. (like discovering it was all a dream)  So I find it very intriguing to make a hypothesis about the film and then find proof to support it. (like the process of viewing any film) The film’s meaning may be indecipherable, but I refuse to write it off as such. Frustrated that I can’t get all the answers from Barton’s mind, I’m forced to speculate about the minds of the Coen brothers. I depend on the author (and my perception of their intentions) to help me find meaning in a text; I simply cannot rely on the text alone.  Thus, for me, it is virtually impossible to enjoy the film without making some effort to figure it out.


  1. October 20th, 2008 | 2:21 pm

    But does it drive you crazy not to have a concrete answer? Can we ever even arrive at one in this case?

  2. Aaron Smith
    October 20th, 2008 | 4:13 pm

    I think you can arrive at an answer that makes the most sense to you (ie the hotel is in his mind). It may not be completely consistent and it might change, but it’s a solution to the lack of a concrete answer. So yes, it does drive me crazy but I kind of like that in this film.

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