Week 7 Blog Post: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Hello class,

One of the biggest differences between written stories and their film adaptations is the number of details scrunched into a specified amount of time. This is very evident in many films that take key sections from entire novels or series of novels and recreate them into a 1:30 – 3:00 hour time slot, such as the Harry Potter series or The Hunger Games. When it comes to An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Ambrose Bierce’s short story reaches a length suitable for an film adaptation on the series The Twilight Zone at the cost of certain events that are only present in the written version.

Comparing the two works, it’s clear that the film adaptation took direct scenes from the short story and recreated them in live action. One such scene describes this from the short story:

“He looked a moment at his ‘unsteadfast footing,’ then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current.” (Bierce, I).

The film depicted this scene by holding a looming shot aimed at Peryton’s feet while the rushing river was displayed in the background, while a swivel like pan gave a strong sense of vertigo for the viewer. In this case, the film managed to successfully translate the effects of the story without the use of words. This use of unique shot composition aided in many other scenes as well, such as the slow moving soldiers with pitched down voices, the shots of Peyton’s bloodied hands, feet, and neck as the “reality” continued, just to name a few.

One of the biggest differences from the film and the short story is the short stories inclusion of a background arc that describes more about Peyton Farquhar and his reasoning for being hanged.

“Peyton Farquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family…” (Bierce, II).


“ ‘Suppose a man—a civilian and student of hanging—should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,’ said Farquhar, smiling, ‘what could he accomplish?’ “(Bierce, II).

We don’t see this “flashback” scene in the film at all, which leaves the viewer free to imagine what exactly Peyton has done to deserve such a harsh punishment.

All in all, I enjoyed both works in their own respective. I appreciate the film sticking with so much from the short story, as I feel many modern films tend to forget their source material in favor of monetary gain.

Thank you,



Post #8: Cinema and Owl Creek

Hey class,

The film “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” has more emphasis on the hanging and imagined escape, while the written short story provides more context and history with the protagonist. There are a few specific noticeable differences–for one, the stories start at different times. The text begins with the rope already around the man’s neck, before flashing back to explain how he came to this situation. The film starts slightly before that, showing the soldiers preparing the rope to hang the man and continues linearly. The text shows the story mostly from the protagonist’s perspective. For example, him seeing the soldiers silhouetted against the sky, standing over him. While the film sometimes zoom out and shows him swimming away from above, or the camera on him from the bushes as he lands on the shore. The text’s description of the water feels more disorienting than the film’s. It describes him spinning, the colors blurring, and is far more brief. The film has several minutes of him in the water, and most of it is the man swimming away.

I like how the film adapted the story. It portrays the man’s fear well, the tension of the hanging, the panic in the chase, and the feeling of being alive. Its use of music and zooming in on nature added to the scene where the man believed himself to be alive and free. The film also did well in presenting the man’s perspective as he was swimming away with shaky camera shots frantically looking around and up at the sky.

Again, the text was far more explicit in providing context to the story. Though both presented the story from the protagonist’s view and put him in a positive light or sympathetic light, the text’s context allowed me to understand and develop my own feelings and opinion on the situation. In the film he was just a man trying to stay alive to return to his family. In the text he was also a man being punished for specific actions.


Narrative Traditions II: Meshes of the Afternoon

I had to watch this twice and I am still not fully sure how to make sense of it all. At first, I thought the camera work almost mimicked what you see in modern-day vlogs of people’s lives, but as the story fully unfolded it felt more like something out of a dream. Each scene felt like it had its own loop within a story cycle, each fragment clues to the bigger picture. I want to say that the catalyst of the story was the flower on the ground that she pick up right at the start, but I also tetter between the record playing may have induced the woman into the lucid dream she was in. In each cycle, there is a repetitiveness amongst objects, the woman in black, the knife the telephone, and the key, each a catalyst on its own within a scene. It seems like the woman was trying to break a cycle of a bad out-of-body experience or that those items were triggers to a relationship she was in with the man. The mirrored face in one of the scenes at the bedside comes around again as a potential lover. Maybe it was a failed relationship and maybe she was reliving the key moments that brought her to her break point. The story arc is quite fragmented with each scene having a beginning middle and end. But for the story as a whole, I am not sure where that arc lies.

We Need to Talk About Small Deaths

The short film I chose to watch was Small Deaths, since I enjoy Lynne Ramsay’s work. This story does not adhere to Aristotelian plot structure, instead presenting three spliced but thematically linked vignettes.

The ‘conflicts’ throughout these separated scenes are mostly internal- we are watching formative moments in a girl’s life, all of which have to do with masculine cruelty or negligence. It all feels detached and melancholic, with many stilted wide shots (The pair looking down at the cow, or the girl alone in the stairwell) that evoke the sense of dreamlike recollection. I think the budget constraints lend themselves to an intentionality and economy of filmmaking, where the tinny voices and cheap film elevate this remembered atmosphere.

The world of the film does a great job in emphasizing that these traumatic instances are chronologically and tonally distant from each other- the soft, golden light of the pastures is quickly undercut with the grunge of the apartment. Ramsay is also talented in her use of specific images; The gore of the cow, the harsh close-ups on laughing faces, or even the simple blocking of the haircut at the back of the frame are all communicative of what the titular ‘small deaths’ represent.

Narratively, this most resembles an episodic structure. Each story is not reliant nor continual of another, but features similar themes, an enclosed resolution, and the same character. It especially works for this short because it can encapsulate sweeping ideas on a decades-long scale with only a few simple scenes.

Post #3: Non-Aristotelian Plot Structures

Hey class,

Meshes of the Afternoon does not have an Aristotelian plot structure, as there is no one clear conflict that leads the story. The film instead uses the mystery of the story, the actions of the characters, and new clues to pull the plot forward. The camera follows the protagonist as she explores her surroundings and make connections as to what is going on and highlights important objects and patterns. The story captures the audience’s attention with the mystery of the appearing flower that seems to be dropped from an arm in the sky. It then pulls the audience’s attention to the state of the house–bread half-cut, a window open, the record playing left playing, and the phone left off the base despite no one seemingly being home.

Despite having a different, and certainly more vague, plot structure, there is still conflict throughout the story. Conflict is introduced with the reappearance of the knife and the mystery of the dream world. The protagonist finds herself chasing the flower and the mysterious figure over and over again as the scene repeats and she watches each new version of herself appear each cycle. Gravity and physics are not on her side, as she has difficulties moving around the house. She watches as the knife is placed in her bed. She fights with the logic of the dream world to try to stab her sleeping form and wake up. However, this just changes the dream. She is eventually found dead. These keep the audience’s attention and keep the action going.

The story makes me curious, and reminds me of stories like Alice in Wonderland that have seemingly nonsensical logic and a strange, other-worldly feel. Though the world and environment are well-established, the mysteries are left unexplained. The music, focus on shadows and hands rather than faces, and reoccurring knife give a tense, dangerous feel to the film.

The story has several patterns, and the film introduces new information with each loop. The flower, key, and knife are significant items that reappear throughout the story, and the protagonist travels to the same locations in the same order in each loop. The story presents information, presents a repeating pattern using that information, and presents new conflicts and clues into those patterns.


Fargo and Tragedy

The motion of Fargo’s plot is spurred with Jerry’s scheme to have his wife kidnapped; We first learn of his plan in the diner, where Jerry’s timid reluctance characterizes him as someone forced into the criminal world, contrasted with the abrasive snarls and barbs of the hired muscle.

But as details congeal through the next act, we see Jerry’s greed and disregard for others- he has an adequate life, and is provided opportunities to better it, but consistently defers to the path of cowardice or deceit. His posturing as a family man and frequent disparagement from peers inspires some pity in the viewer, though; He is also subject to influence, and possesses little agency in his own scheme, and consequentially little understanding of its severity. As Aristotle explains concerning tragic character action,

“The deed of horror may be done, but done in ignorance.”

This is especially true for the eventual demise of Jerry’s wife, and for the volatility of the hitmen.

This all lends to the calcified impression of impending tragedy. Jerry’s transformation feels like a thawing of his true nature, previously veiled by social restraint.

Marge is a perfect opposite to Jerry- virtuous and fearless, even in the face of death. Her affable demeanor might suggest an officer without conviction, but her gentle nature never restricts her from strength or justice, whether it be in a social boundary (Firmly rejecting Mike’s advances) or climactic standoff (Rushing to confront Gaear without backup).

Fargo most closely resembles Aristotle’s second classification of tragedy, which he describes as possessing

“A double thread of plot, and also an opposite catastrophe for the good and for the bad.”

This is true of the film’s conclusion, where Jerry attempts to flee the scene, an apt synecdoche of his character shown as he clings to the window and flails against the officers; Inversely, Marge receives a quiet, tender epilogue with her husband. The just, diametric arcs of these characters fit within the framework of tragedy. Fargo adheres to Aristotle’s Tragic structure by eliciting fear and pity, and by detailing the ruin and rise of these two characters.

Post #2: Fargo and Aristotle

Hey again class,

In Fargo, the plot moves forward and pushes characters’ actions by putting many of them under massive amounts of stress. Jerry is worried about money and is desperate. Carl and Gaear need to pull off this job without being caught and arrested. Jean is in danger. Wade is worried about his daughter. Marge needs to find the culprits before they kill more people. The catalyst of the deaths in this movie begins when Carl and Gaear are presented with one minor problem—a state trooper pulling them over—which escalates the tense, but simple situation to a messy catastrophe. Jerry and Carl make rash decisions to try to fix their mistakes, only to make their situations worse. They push other characters to rash decisions as well via their mistakes. Jerry’s flaws are exacerbated as he is put under more stress, eventually leading him to covering up the murder of his father-in-law, Wade. Jerry is not equipped to handle the all the death, despite his actions leading to what caused it.

I see the movie Fargo as a good example of how Aristotle defines Tragedy. In chapter 6 of his book The Poetics, Aristotle defines tragedy as “the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself.” The movie Fargo imitates a real-world event that happened in Minnesota in 1987. Fargo also imitates the actions, life, and emotions of the invented story. The characters are presented with the high-stakes pressure of money and crime—it has very serious and significant elements like death. Aristotle also defines the six parts of tragedy as being Fable/Plot, Characters, Diction, Melody, Thought, and Spectacle. Fargo contains a Fable, showing the audience the incidences of the story, Character in presenting moral differences in each of the characters, Diction in the composition of lines, Melody in scenes where no words are necessary for the audience to understand, Thought in the characters expressing their truths, and Spectacle in the existence of the film.

Fargo also invites both fear and pity from the audience, as mentioned by Aristotle in chapter 9. Characters graphically die left and right—audiences don’t know who will survive in the end. This could lead to fear. Fargo invites pity for the characters by showing their fear, pain, humanity, and regret. Jerry’s voice becomes quiet and his body language turns inward when he asks if Jean is okay. Gaear, despite all his violence towards others, enjoys watching drama TV. These traits don’t redeem the characters, but do show the audience that they are human beings.