Peter Weir’s film Witness explores the contrast between the two worlds by contrasting the Amish culture with a modern Westernized society. Weir presents many themes and issues in his film. Through his use of film techniques like long shots and close-ups make the film more enjoyable. These themes include clash of two cultures/different worlds, Peace and violence, innocence and corruption. These are presented effectively with a variety of film techniques, editing, setting, dialogue and music/sound. The two elements of the plot, the love story, and the crime story, make up the genre.
Firstly, cultural clash is achieved through the contrast of setting. The clash between the two cultures is a major issue in the film and it is later resolved. The shot of the countryside, showing the Amish farmhouses and barns shows a peaceful community. This contrasts with the busy American city, with shops, modern style buildings and cars suggesting a highly industrialized society. Contrasting of the two worlds is again achieved by comparing the community in the Amish world with the individualism in the modern world. This is shown through camera techniques and costumes.
In the opening scene, a long shot shows a group of Amish people walking together. The group, dressed in similar black costumes, supports the idea of a unified community. Additionally, the shot of the men raising the barn, gives an impression of teamwork in the Amish community. This contrasts with the high level angle shot of people walking around independently in the train station, increase the i...
ndividualism of the modern world. The two worlds come together when Book drives Rachel to her father in law’s house, Eli, which is shown through the visual contrasts and comparisons Weir uses throughout the film.
For example many of the images use the lack of harmony, which is the placement of things side by side that aren’t usually seen together – this shows the two worlds colliding, the clash of cultures. For example Samuel and Rachel in their black Amish clothes against the modern police station. Costume is an important film technique, as it shows the contrast between Book and Rachel. This is also evident in the ‘plain scene’, where Book is wearing Amish clothes, which are Rachel’s dead husbands clothes, and Book says, “How do I look? ” and Rachel responds by saying “You look plain”. This is seen as a compliment, and her accepting him.
The Amish community relies a lot on religion; their rules are based on basic Christian beliefs. The Amish work more as a community, everybody works together and everyone is together all of the time, they never separate. This is shown in the barn scene, when the whole community helps to build the barn. The lack of agreement and crash of worlds is continued to been shown with Book with his gunshot wound being placed on an old fashioned Amish table, and a close up is used, and with Mcfee in is suit, in the barn. The two societies also differ in relation to their attitude towards violence.
The violence that exists in our modern Westernized world, contrasts with the traditional non-violent
lifestyle of the Amish. The dialogue, where Eli says, ‘It is not our way. ’ Book: ‘But it’s my way. ’ This demonstrates the contrast between the non-violent lifestyle of the Amish, and an outsider’s own violent response to their safety. Furthermore, the statue of an angel holding up an injured man symbolizes the suffering and violence present in the modern world. Peace and violence is effectively demonstrated and presents two very different responses to problems.
In the murder scene, a close-up shot of Samuel’s eyes emphasizes his innocence. This is compared with the cutting to close-ups of the brutal slitting of the victim’s throat along with violent sounds as seen by a view shot from Samuel’s eyes. This clearly and effectively shows that the western world is violent and Amish are innocent peaceful. Furthermore, in the scene with tourists the Amish are shown with mid-shots to cower. However, this is compared with Book’s violent dialogue “Listen lady, if you take that picture I’ll rip your brassiere off and strangle you with it”.
Clearly Weir has obviously shown that society takes violent approaches to problem in contrast to Amish’s peaceful alternative. Also, the symbolism of the gun of the violence of the western world is tucked away once Book settles into the farm and doesn’t reappear until Book contacts with his society. This evidently concludes that violence has no place in Amish culture. The biggest issue that highlights the clash of cultures is the relationship between Rachel Lapp and John Book. They are very different people.
Rachel refuses to accept the violence that now surrounds her because of the murder and Book, and she blames Book, saying “I just don’t like my son spending all this time with a man who carries a gun and goes around whacking people”. Their relationship develops through the movie, and she is torn between her feelings for Book, who is dangerous, and different to what she is used to, and her responsibility to the Amish rules, her family and the church. She cannot bridge the divide between the cultures – Book can’t join the Amish, and she cannot leave because she is tied to her community.
This theme is especially shown in the dancing in the barn scene, when Book is trying to repair the car, and the song is playing in the radio. They both stop dancing and appear about to kiss when they are interrupted by a disgusted Eli. What is harmless fun in Book’s world is the opposite in Rachel’s world. The scene opens with soft and shadowy, that sets a romantic mood, and contrasts to the previous scene that showed Daniel and Rachel sitting on the swing, with its painful squeaking acting as a metaphor for their relationship. The lighting has the effect of being diffused and shadowy, and heavy shadows.
As Eli’s voice breaks the moment, and he speaks in German to show that what is happening is very inappropriate As Rachel walks back to the house, Eli’s fear that Rachel’s behavior may mean that she will be ‘shunned’, according to the Amish rules. As Eli appears in the