Barton Fink (1991): Writer’s Evil

The Coens turned the mental block they suffered during the making of Miller’s Crossing into one of their most applauded masterpieces. Barton Fink, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, is the most accurate representation ever made of the writer’s evil.

You don’t have to dedicate yourself to it to know that it is a very dangerous task. Writing is the eternal struggle between man and the depths of his being. Searching within yourself is hard work of self-control that can end up opening doors that should be kept closed. All of this was felt by the Coen Brothers and so many other writers, unlike the creators of Fargo, The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men, among other titles, turning this fight into a work of its own.

Barton Fink opens the head of the homonymous protagonist to the title of the film. Barton is a successful Broadway writer who decides to try his luck in the movie mecca. This decision will mean a serious setback in his until then contained creativity, constantly distorting reality and mixing it with situations of questionable veracity. Through Barton’s early days of work, we will see how a (more or less) stable writer ends up descending into the cruelest of hells.


The 1991 Cannes Film Festival vibrated with Barton Fink, to such an extent that it awarded him three main accolades: the coveted Palme d’Or, Best Lead Male Performance, and Best Screenplay. Such was the uproar that from that year on, the number of firsts that could be awarded to the same film was limited to two. Be that as it may, there are three awards that 29 years later do not bother and are more than justifiable. The interpretation of John Turturro continues to be considered one of the high points of his career and of the wide range of characters of the Coens, who have rarely better captured his unmistakable style.

It seems strange that two directors with their feet as anchored to the ground as the Coens made such a cerebral and fanciful film. Everything we have seen in his extensive filmography coincides in theme (criminal cinema) and tone (black humor), but no film has resorted to the impossibility of the story with so much evidence. More than a Coen film, it looks like a Lynch film (by content, I say), but the formal body of the work is unmistakably Coenian.


We all love the Coens’ most popular works, but missing tapes like this should be a crime. Cinema that borders on the surreal with the style of two directors who have marked an era in contemporary North American cinema.