The Occurrences Between Film and Word

The short film adaptation of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge delivered the story very faithfully to the original. In both, the scene is set in a highly detailed manner. Subject to subject transitions provide the reader/viewer a well-established sense of the space in which the plot begins. In the story, these are written. In the film, these take the form of long opening shots. Starting wide and narrowing in, they take the scene from large and open to right on the man about to be hanged.

The largest difference between film and story comes in the second section of Bierce’s original. This background section is omitted from the film entirely, which is a suitable translation. In it, we get a flashback to our main character relaxing with his wife and talking with a soldier about the Yankees repairing the railroads nearby. This is fitting because it leaves the short film to be about a particular moment, opening it up to more imaginative viewing. If the background scene were to be included, it would take away the mystery enveloping the scene. It would also feel much less like an episode of The Twilight Zone. 

The final section of the story is similar to the first in its presentation. Sticking much more to the source material, we get slow shots at first, but as the man realizes his situation of being hanged and drowned, the shots speed up with his panic. And like the original, the realization that he’s been in a dream-like flash before his eyes comes suddenly.

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