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Close Analysis Of The Film "Witness" By Peter Wier

1207 words - 5 pages

"Witness" is a thriller, which was directed by Peter Weir and released in 1985. The film centres around the Amish community who live in Pennsylvania, and a young Amish boy, Samuel, and his widowed mother, Rachel, who are caught up in the clash between two very different worlds. One world is the modern, American, consumerist world, focused on money, property and individual success, and the other is the contrasting world of the Amish which is focused on serving their community. This clash between the two worlds is represented through many different ideas, images and techniques. Some of the main themes are the clash between pacifist attitudes and violence; the opposing attitudes of the ideals of individualism and community spirit; and of innocence versus corruption.The Amish world is introduced at the very start of the film where the opening visual fades in to reveal a long shot showing the landscape. There is no use of artificial lighting but merely the natural sunlight of an early morning. This suggests the plain, simplistic traditions of the Amish community. The mystical music complements the scene and the words "Pennsylvania 1984" are surprising as the viewer might expect a much earlier date. The idea of two worlds is introduced by this and is also symbolized by the division of the scene into top half of the sky and the bottom half of the grass. The crossing of the two worlds is portrayed by the Amish moving through the frame from right to left through the grass. This is an unusual technique and symbolizes a different society as usually most movement is from left to right.A scene later in the film demonstrates different attitudes towards violence in the two worlds. This is where Samuel finds Book's gun in a drawer. Samuel is startled when John enters and yells, 'Don't move". John empties the bullets from the chamber and tells Samuel a loaded gun is very dangerous. When Rachel enters, a close up of her face emphasizes her concern when she sees Samuel playing with the gun, and, not knowing that it is now harmless, takes it from him holding it distastefully by the butt. The Amish believe it is wrong to take the life of others under any circumstance and it is only for God to do so. Eli talks to Samuel and quotes from the Bible a verse which gives a commandment which he wants Samuel to obey. Eli asks Samuel if he would kill a man and Samuel replies that he 'would only kill a bad man' and Eli realizes that Samuel has been tainted by his exposure to evil. In this scene simple camera shots and angles portray the seriousness of the scene, and a sound of distant thunder suggests danger to come. In this sequence Weir uses the visual metaphor of a child's hands on Books gun. Samuel's hands suggest purity while the gun is a symbol of Book's violent world. Book believes his gun is for the greater good and uses it to protect the innocent and to fight evil.Another example of the different attitudes towards conflict in the two worlds is the scene in which a...

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