Monday, October 29, 2012

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge



It was in 1977-78, I guess that the University of Kerala conducted a film festival at the Tagore Theater in Thpuram.  Those were the days when the Hollywood genre held sway over young like I and in equal competitive measure with the Amitabh Bachan flicks. But there was much de ja vu about the retrospective that the University Students core was organizing.

There were a few Hollywood classics like the “Roman Holidays” and the marvels of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. But mostly the festival was of films that were till then unheard of-films from the Eastern Europe, besides classics of French directors. The one that stood out in memory all these years is a poignant film in black and white , that in fact help germinate a dislike and abhorrence to the  punitive punishment with death. Later the same film was screened by the Surya film society in their festivals.
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”, was a French film from the early sixties. It was adapted from the short story of by Ambrose Bierece. Set in the times during the American Civil war, the film captures the lust of human mind for life.
A Civil war prisoner, a civilian and an alleged spy is to be hanged at the Owl Creek Bridge.

It recounts the illusion the poor man has as he precariously stood on the edge of the bridge with the noose around his neck. He is to be dropped down from the bridge. The rope breaks as he is dropped down and he finds himself breathless and struggling in the icy waters down. 

He senses a superhuman strength as he breaks free from the rope that bound his hands and legs. He swims fast and gets carried downstream by the swift current. The soldiers fire at him when they sense that he broke free. Evading capture he is washed on the bank downstream from where he takes to heels running frantically towards his home. The wild, fatigued and desperate run is through the woods and thickets. He is drained and his feet are with blisters. His clothes torn and tattered, wearied he reaches his home desperately wanting to see his wife and child. As he sees his wife walk towards him with smile, surprise and open arms, he runs towards her. As he is about to take her in his arms he senses a pang...... .The shot we see then is the cut to the incident at the Owl Creek Bridge......

 His great escape was .......
I saw this film again yesterday, from Torrent. Perhaps you would like to watch this short film (of about 15 minutes) in the link here The print is not good but the poignancy of the shots is never fading.

13 comments:

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

Brilliant one! The way he looks at life with all new vigour, the way only someone who escaped from the clutches of death can do, thanks a ton for sharing. But I’ve a complaint; if only you hadn’t given away the climax! You sort of spoiled it :)

Happy Kitten said...

Oh! and I thought the ending was something different but he did escape!

Wow!

Musings said...

@ Arun Meethale Chirakkal,

I hope the small edit I affected in the post would take care of your complaint. Thanks Arun .

@ Happy Kitten,

A, seeing your comment,I guess you did not watch the short film. Please take a look, it is not more than 10-15 minutes.

Meera Sundararajan said...

My god.. this sounds so terrible! I have read somewhere about how the executioners in the tranvancore state had to weave the rope with their own hands for the person to be executed and how the kings used to often issue " a pardon" in such a strategic way that the event would have occured before the message reached the site of execution.

rudraprayaga said...

Nice narration.

Anil P said...

Among the first books I got hold of after completing high school was one that had anthologized this very story by Ambrose Bierce. The only other work I was acquainted with until then were his quips, obviously a master at it.

Blame my schooling age for the deep impression this story left behind in my mind, returning to its starkness time and again as if to check if I missed any thread of poignancy I shouldn't have.

What a memory you stirred.

But I haven't seen the film, more for fear that it could not possibly match the intensity of his prose narration.

anilkurup said...

@ Anil.P,

I have not read any work of Ambrose Bierce and I am not in position to comment on his style and narrative. But you seem to have been immensely evoked by his writing.

It is a tough ask to bring the feel in visual media what is in print. One such or may be a display that surpassed the writing was by Merryl Streep as Sophie in "Sophie's Choice". The film was based on the work of the same name by William Styron.

Thanks for the comments. Perhaps you must see the film and gauge.

Sandy said...

I must say that this is an interesting movie and someone has a great imagination with its making...I have not heard of it but think I might like it....

Sandy

Happy Kitten said...

I did watch the entire movie and what I meant is that initially I thought he escaped and must have found his wife with a lover! what a mean mind :)

bliss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anilkurup said...

@ Sandy,

Thanks for coming back to the Blogworld after quite a long absence.


@ Happy Kitten,

A, perhaps an over dose of Indian flicks , may have blunted a bit of your thinking ha !

sujata sengupta said...

I agree with Arun, you spoiled it :(

anilkurup said...

@ Sujata,

I confess. But the current post has been amended after Arun highlighted the matter.