October 11, 2012
Barton Fink- A Critical Analysis of Sound
In the film Barton Fink, the Cohen Brothers use music, sound effects and dialogue to shape the tone of the ‘world’ in which their idealistic and naïve character lives. Their enlistment of sound editor, Skip Lievsay and composer Carter Burwell allows them to cohesively create an atmosphere of unease that works to define Barton as a person, as well as, call attention to the quirky environment surrounding him. In this film, the sound effects, dialogue and music do more than highlight the cinematography, they also work to provoke deep thought by keeping in line with the narrative theme “The Life of The Mind”.
The use of sound effects in this film seem to primarily get us to look into the thoughts Barton Fink wrestles with on his uncertain journey in Hollywood. His transition from New York to Hollywood is marked by the sounds of waves crashing against a rock that slowly dissolves to the scene showing Barton in the lobby of his hotel looking very apprehensive. The waves imply that he was pushed into the new world of Hollywood against his will. It is clear that Barton has not followed his first mind on this but has accepted his circumstances in spite of his mental warnings.
The audio wash of the waves mixed with the light sound of music introduces us to the dismal state of the Hotel Earle. The sound effects and audible treats characterize the Hotel Earle while we sit and wonder why Barton is checking into such a dump. The sound of silence and the hum of a portable fan give the Hotel Earle a life of its own and is a character in the film in and of its self. The first sound we hear is Barton’s tap on the bell for registration. It continues to ring for an oddly long period of time, which is our first sign that this hotel stay is going to be weird and peculiar. While Barton waits for a response to the bell, he hears footsteps but is unable to detect their...