Witness, directed by Peter Weir is an American film which combines a crime story with a love story, creating a dual narrative. The Amish element complicates the genres, which makes them both familiar and new. Good morning Mrs Goundar and fellow students. Peter Weir draws the audience into the world of film through various techniques to explore the clash of two worlds and forbidden love. Peter Weir has effectively conveyed the theme of clash of cultures by showing the power of loyalty within the Amish community in contrast to the deceit and betrayal which lies in the modern civilisation.
Weir has also conveyed the forbidden love of Rachel Lapp, an Amish widow and John Book, an English policeman. Witness is a film about the clash of two cultures, being the Amish and the modern civilisation known as the English. Peter Weir has begun the film with a contrast of the two cultures settings. The panning shot of the countryside with natural lighting, enhanced by Jarre’s synthesiser music. The Amish people wearing anachronistic costumes shows uniformity and peacefulness this culture holds.
This is then contrasted with the busy American city, cars and modern buildings, with a very noisy background. This suggests the fast-paced and individualised lifestyle of the English. Additionally, significant scenes that show this are the barn building scene and the police station scene. The eye level angle shot of the Amish men and Book, raising the barn gives an impression of teamwork in the Amish community. Weir than contrasts this community at the police station, where middle angle shots of people working alone at desks, convey the idea of individualism.
It is also seen in the high level angle shot of people walking around independently in the train station, reinforcing the individualism of the modern civilisation. However, Weir strategically uses the existence and non-existence of technology to juxtapose the two cultures. This is conveyed in the mis-en-scene of the truck following the Amish people’s horse and buggy. We can clearly see that the two cultures cannot live in the same world. In the breakfast at the Lapp’s scene, where John makes a light joke about a commercial, their further rejection of technology is supported by a close-up shot of the Lapp family’s faces.
This shows viewers they are confused by Book’s humour, as they do not have television and are not aware of this. The clash of cultures is again seen in the cafe scene with Book. A close-up of Book’s facials as he watches Rachel and Samuel pray before eating expresses his unfamiliarity with the Amish customs. Peter Weir has strongly depicted the idea of forbidden love throughout the film with the developing relationship between Rachel Lapp and John Book. Rachel is torn between her feelings for Book and her responsibility to the Amish culture, her family and the church.
Book is a violent man with different beliefs, but this does not stop him from falling in love with her. They cannot bridge the divide between the two cultures as Book cannot join the Amish and Rachel cannot leave because she is tied to her culture. This is specifically shown in the dancing in the barn scene. The scene is opened with low key lighting that has an effect of being soft and shadowy, that creates a romantic mood. Weir has then used a shot reverse shot between Rachel and Book’s faces to build the sexual tension between the characters.
This shot shows both their expressions and in turn builds our understanding of their growing relationship. This is then dramatically interrupted by a repelled Eli emphasising on the idea of forbidden love. This is seen as harmless fun in Book’s world but to the Amish, it is a sin, quoted by Eli “you know there has been talk, talk about going to the bishop and having you shunt. ” Additionally the idea of forbidden love is passionately depicted in the kissing scene. This romantic scene becomes the end of Book and Rachel’s romance.
A minimal lighted, back profile shot of Rachel taking her cap off, symbolises her temporary absence of the Amish culture to be with Book. Weir has used specific film techniques to allow viewers to understand the passion of this scene. Such as using limited dialogue shows there are no words left to say about how they feel, as nothing will change the fact that they can never be together. The creative use of soft music becoming lighter and brighter as they embrace in each other’s arms.
A dark setting of muted greys and greens of dusk is used to hide from their sins. A close-up of the kiss is used to capture the desperate moment of need for one another. These techniques carefully communicate complex ideas and emotions the pair is feeling and how passionately in love they are. It is possible to conclude that Peter Weir draws viewers into the world of film through the themes of clash of two worlds and forbidden love, using many effective techniques to portray the conflicting ideologies of the Amish and English world. Thank you for listening.