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Vivid imaginings make sense when someone is about to die and is not ready for it. They would be thinking about loved ones and the memories, emotions and further plans they had with them. They could be thinking about what they love about their life, and what they would do if they could continue living it. When someone is about to die, and is standing there waiting for it without any doubt, it would make perfect sense to have a large amount of stress and anxiety, as well as thoughts of how to get out of the situation and what they would do afterwards. The short film named “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Robert Enrico shows an extremely fascinating interpretation of such an event using a combination of sounds and cinematography. The man in the film who is about to die is having all of the experiences mentioned above, and Enrico shows how it is only a dream or an imagining; that it is not really happening.
Almost immediately it seems obvious that the condemned man is already feeling very anxious and is more alert and imaginative than normal. When the soldiers move the man to the loose plank on the bridge, and while they are binding him up to prevent escape, their footsteps, the creaking of the old bridge, and all the surrounding birds that are chirping and twittering away seen louder and more menacing than usual. As he waits for them to commence killing him, he looks around, and everything seems to be slowed down…like he is controlling time and using that advantage to have a decent look at his surroundings. He notices all the guards standing all around, and right after looking at his barely-stable footing, he takes note of a log floating along in the stream. All of this seems like it is happening in a strange amount of time.
After the condemned man is finished surveying his surroundings, he closes his eyes and the scene cuts to a vision of a house and a family of mother and daughter. The scene is really fuzzy, and really sluggish, just like a dream. The woman is walking slowly towards the camera, or the man, and the daughter is swinging in slow motion. As the scene progresses, a sound is slowly coming in. The sound is like a ticking, getting louder at first, then also getting faster and faster. The ticking is similar to a heartbeat speeding up, and as it gets louder at the same time, it seems to make both the dreamer and the viewer more and more anxious.
After the guards take away his pocket watch, he is standing there crying, like as if his demise is finally sinking in. But yet it might not have completely sunk in, because he is still pressing against his bonds. Then the sergeant makes the move to drop him, and as he is falling, all you see is his feet and legs. Once he is in the water, it looks like the rope had broken, and he is already struggling against his bonds once more. But now suddenly he can get free of them. If he could not get out of them before, it could be considered strange that he can now all of a sudden. At the same time, the water sounds different than usual, as if to subtly hint that this is not really happening.
Once the man is above water, a song fades in and talks about how the singer, or presumably, the man in the water, can “see each tree” and all of the veins in their leaves, “hear the birds, the buzzing flies, the splashing fish….” The scene shows a curious look on the man’s face, and shots of leaves up really close, a caterpillar, a spider… all things that would be blurry and even not noticeable to a human who almost died and is treading water next to the enemy. This all seems to take a long time, too. The soldiers would normally have already reacted to the man surviving and would have shot him; the situation all over and done with.
As the scene shows the soldiers all scrambling, they seem slow and sluggish; all warped by a slower passage of time than usual. As the sergeant slowly starts to shout out orders, his voice sounds deeper, too deep and slow; like a monstrous, menacing speech. The slowing of time seems to come in handy for the man as the soldiers shoot at and miss him, the bullets sounding different then they would normally at the same time. As one soldier is aiming for the man, it shows a close up of the soldiers eye, as if the prisoner could see that well that far away while at the same time in the water trying to swim away.
After he regains consciousness and finds himself on a beach at the edge of the river, he happens to take the time to look at all the scenery in sharper detail than humans can usually perceive. The shots heard from far away make him get up and run into the forest. The trees in the forest are unnaturally straight and perfect, and there are no animals, nothing but short trimmed grass surrounding them.
Once he gets to his house, the music seems heavenly, and as the couple is moving toward each other, they seem to get nowhere. Those shots are actually the same ones repeated over and over a few times to give the illusion that they are far away from each other. Once the man finally gets to his perfect-looking wife and perfect house, and just as he is about to embrace her, his head snaps back and he screams in pain.
The last bit of the film cuts to show him hanging there, his neck snapped; the rope unbroken. The narrator sums up what happened to the man in one precise sentence: “This story is shown in two forms: as it was dreamed, and as it was lived and died.” Those few precious seconds are where the man imagined what he desperately wished to have, but could not.
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