Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

An Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge (1962)

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Originally a story by Ambrose Bierce, director Robert Enrico’s subtly intensifying, building expectation in each minute scene of this film makes it a prime example of how much more satisfying – or in this case, deliberately unsatisfying – narration in film can be. Enrico plays with an emotional manipulation of time. The intensity the main character feels is what drags each second of his fantasy, fraught with the relief of escape and terror of being caught again. We feel each detail as he swims to safety, runs through the woods, and dreams of the woman waiting for him at home. Enrico’s depiction of nature’s beauty highlights the gratefulness this man feels to be free; his careful use of sounds like war drums and hopeful melodies communicate emotions we can already read on the actor’s face. The elaborateness of the harrowing getaway makes us root for this man whose crimes are unclear. Having not read the original story, I can’t imagine how the author builds this tension with nothing but text in his employ, when Enrico can tease us with sights, sounds, and the defeat of time. Jeff Johnson penned an appreciative review of the film in 2002 – follow the link to read his thoughts.

 The end of the film takes all of our hopes and feeling for this character away and, quite literally, leaves us hanging.

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Written by Alisa Hathaway

February 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm

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