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,



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.

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.