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Like all of the Coen productions, “Barton Fink” has a deliberate visual style. The Hollywood of the late 1930s and early 1940s is seen here as a world of Art Deco and deep shadows, long hotel corridors and bottomless swimming pools. And there is a horror lurking underneath the affluent surface. Goodman, as the ordinary man in the next room, is revealed to have inhuman secrets, and the movie leads up to an apocalyptic vision of blood, flames and ruin, with Barton Fink unable to influence events with either his art or his strength.
The Coens mean this aspect of the film, I think, to be read as an emblem of the rise of Nazism. They paint Fink as an ineffectual and impotent left-wing intellectual, who sells out while telling himself he is doing the right thing, who thinks he understands the “common man” but does not understand that, for many common men, fascism had a seductive appeal. Fink tries to write a wrestling picture and sleeps with the great writer’s mistress, while the Holocaust approaches and the nice guy in the next room turns out to be a monster.