Cinema Language – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” by Ambrose Pierce, follows the tale of a man that is about to be hanged but miraculously escapes death, or so he thinks. I thought both the short story and the film were well-done and accentuated different aspects of the plot. The written version includes many added details that help us get into the mind of the main character. An example of this is when he is drowning after the rope breaks. There is a lengthy paragraph dedicated to his thoughts and feelings as he tries to free himself and get to the surface. Adding these little moments gives us a better sense of who he is and what he’s feeling in these intense sequences. While in the film we witness this event unfold, we have no idea what he’s thinking and therefore lose that perspective.

With that said, the movie has its own elements that provide a unique take on the story. The imagery and sounds largely tell the tale as there is little to no dialogue. I think these add to the tension, particularly when he is fleeing and you can hear the guns and cannons going off around him. You never know if he is actually going to make it and pairing this unknown with the loud sounds of gunfire elevates the suspense. The film also gives us sympathy for the man through its music and camera angles. Even though we don’t know what he’s thinking, the camera focuses on him enough for us to see his emotions. I thought the song that was used several times also played a role in making him feel more human and allowed us to grieve over his circumstances. Overall, I enjoyed both versions of this story and it was interesting to see what aspects each medium chose to focus on.

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