dir. Robert Enrico
[And here’s another one of my Netflix Experiment movies. For those who haven’t read recent entries on the subject, I am no longer checking my Netflix queue—just accepting what gets sent my way. Basically, it means I’m finally getting around to watching the hundreds of flicks I put on my list ages ago but put off watching. Incidentally, today’s experiment movie, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, just happens to be one of the few shorts I’ve covered here.]
As you know from a previous post, I ain’t exactly a hard-on about going into a movie fresh. Indeed, many times, considering the complexity of the plot, it can be downright advantageous to know the ins and outs of a story beforehand—more brain power can be devoted to musing on the photography, themes, performances, direction, what have you; rather than deciphering what’s going on in the plot. Yes, I understand that most readers are tsk-tsking in disapproval right now; but at worst, I consider this situation a mixed bag. Where you lose in the surprise factor, you gain in appreciating the depth (or lack thereof) of the picture as a whole. Hell, even with books, I find that I tend to enjoy them more if I take a break and read a summary of the entire plot before continuing: I’m much better able to focus on the quality of the writing.
But wait, I know you must be asking, what of the stories with “oh shit, I can’t believe that just happened” twist endings? Well, even those aren’t much of an issue for me. If the story is told in a compelling enough manner, I’ll enjoy the ride even if I already know the destination. We all rewatch movies, don’t we? It’s not like we forget the endings in between viewings. No, if a movie is good enough, we return to it just to spend time in the presence of its company.
And so what, you are now asking, does this have to do with today’s review of the short An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? (By the way, why am I assuming you guys are such an inquisitive bunch today?) Well, I bring this up because Robert Enrico, when adapting Ambrose Bierce’s classic short story, was given the advantage (some might say curse) of filming material that damn near every American was familiar with, not only from High School English classes, but also through innumerable imitations. Hell, The Twilight Zone owed such a debt to this story’s dark, tragic twist ending that it ended up playing Enrico’s short adaptation of Bierce’s story as a Twilight Zone episode.
So, seeing as most people knew the outcome already (Civil war soldier escapes a hanging and flees back to his wife...in his mind, in the seconds before his body actually falls from the bridge from which he is being hanged. Oh yeah, SPOILER), Enrico had to up his directing game to truly make a mark. And he does so with flying colors.
Does knowing beforehand that the bulk of this story takes place in the main character’s soon-to-be-dead mind hinder the short? It depends on the viewer, I suppose. I marveled at the way Enrico was able to imply the dreamlike without ever making it explicit. Throughout much of the escape, the camera glides a little too perfectly, a little too fluidly. Everything happens just right—the way it must in this man’s mind to achieve the perfect kind of escape. And of the final mind-encounter with the wife, Enrico teased for a seeming eternity the length of time it took the soldier and his beloved to run toward each other. Enrico smartly filmed with a long lens, from a distance, the wife’s slow run, making it seem as if she were simply running in place: a phenomenon all too familiar to anyone who has ever had a dream of running to or from something...so yeah, everyone would understand this.
Again, nothing new here, but one helluva ride.