Witness

How does Peter Weir use themes and ideas to make the world of Witness?
Witness directed by Peter Weir presents a number of themes that are based around the contrasting aspects between two conflicting cultures; the Amish and the ‘English. These themes include clash of two cultures, violence versus pacifism, forbidden love and conformity versus non-conformity. These are presented effectively with a variety of film techniques.

The clash of two cultures between the Amish and the English is one of the major themes in the film and is portrayed using a number of film techniques. The film commences with the view of long, lush grass with the Amish emerging from it soon after, accompanied by natural and ambient lighting. This establishes the Amish effectively as peaceful people who are in harmony with nature. However, this view of the Amish is soon juxtaposed in the next scene with the English. Weir effectively uses a long shot of a train station with everyone doing their own thing along with harsh and artificial lighting. This is presented very effectively because the audience realises that the director is making a negative comment about society they are familiar with – anonymous, artificial and cold. Furthermore, visual juxtaposition is used effectively when Book first arrives at the Lapp farm. The visual of the car, symbolising the artificial and violent western world, is visually juxtaposed with the agricultural farm house of the Amish. This shows the differences and clash and incompatibility of the two cultures. Also, Weir uses a clever and interesting piece of symbolism when Book crashes his car into a birdhouse on the Lapp farm and breaks it. This symbolizes Book’s arrival on the Lapp farm, bringing all the violence from contemporary society and destroying the serenity of the Amish culture. Weir is clearly criticizing our contemporary society which clashes with the peaceful Amish. Another fascinating theme is violence versus pacifism.

Violence versus pacifism is effectively portrayed and presents two very different responses to problems. In the murder scene, a close-up shot of Samuel’s eyes emphasise his innocence. This is juxtaposed with the cutting to close-ups of the brutal slitting of the victim’s throat along with violent sounds such as grunts and thuds as seen by a subjective view shot from Samuel’s perspective. This clearly and effectively shows that the western world is violent and Amish are innocent pacifists. Furthermore, in the scene with tourists the Amish are shown with mid-shots to cower. However, this is juxtaposed with Book’s violent dialogue “Listen lady, if you take that picture I’ll rip your brassiere off and strange you with it”. Clearly and concisely, Weir has obviously shown that contemporary 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 Lapp farm and doesn’t reappear until Book reestablishes contact with his society. This evidently concludes that violence has no place in Amish culture. Another interesting theme is forbidden love.

Forbidden love is effectively conveyed and further accentuates the conflicting and incompatible aspects of the two societies. In the barn dancing scene, the lyrics of the background music “what a wonderful world it would be” suggests lust between Rachel and Book, but it’s an unlikely love. Then, this is interrupted by Eli, who holds a lamp in front of him. A long shot of Book’s car’s headlights is also shown, along with Book dropping his head. The lamp is a symbol of Amish culture, while the headlight is a representation of the western world, and Book’s looking downwards emphasises the fact he knows his love with Rachel is forbidden by culture differences. Also, this theme is effectively reinforced with symbolism. Book constantly views Rachel through barred or netted windows, which accentuates effectively that Book is a mere observer in Amish society, hence love between them cannot eventuate. At the end of the movie, this theme is closed – Rachel stands by the Amish house with shadows in the backdrop, while Book is shown in a mid-shot with a road behind him. Clearly, this represents that Book’s love with Rachel has met a dead-end and he must now take a different path. A further theme is conformity versus non-conformity.

Conformity versus non-conformity is well portrayed and further explores the relationship between the Amish and contemporary society. The funeral sequence shows mid-shots and close-up shots of Amish people in similar clothing, displays how they are the same conform. In contrast, the English are shown to be non-conformists in the train station sequence. Mid-shots of people attending their own separate duties and of many different varieties of clothing effectively highlight the western world as an individual society. Furthermore, in the scene where Book goes to town, a group of people bully the Amish people, but they simply take it and don’t fight back. When Book gets up to fight back, he is warned by the Amish “it’s not my way”, to which he responds with the dialogue “but it’s my way”. Obviously, this shows that the Amish are conforming with the rules of society, while Book, despite being a police officer, doesn’t conform to it and adapts it to the situation.

After close analysis, Peter Weir’s Witness is seen to successfully be interesting and portray fascinating ideas to the audience. The ideas of cultural clashes, innocence versus brutality, forbidden love and challenges to conformity are all themes that effectively appeals to everyone. It is without a doubt that peter Weir has composed a film that, through the use of numerous film techniques, Witness is a film that shows that the Amish and western society cannot operate in harmony.http://www.oppapers.com/essays/Witness/244311

Witness 8.4 of 10 on the basis of 4488 Review.