The Clash Between Amish Culture and Modern American Culture in the Film Witness
Witness is a mix of genres; it has romance, action, is part
murder/detective story, and is a thriller. The aim of the director,
Peter Weir, is to show the clash of cultures between the Amish and the
Modern American culture. Peter Weir the director likes to place
characters into an unusual situation like in this film he has a
Pennsylvanian cop, John Book, having to hide and live in an Amish
community. 'Pennsylvania' means brotherly love in Amish.
The Amish are a Christian religious group with origins from Europe, in
America they are known as 'The Plain People'. The Amish travelled to
America for freedom of worship. Many of them settled in the
Pennsylvanian area. The Amish people speak a dialect of broken German
to each other. They all learn English to communicate with people
outside of the community like at certain shops where they need
important supplies that they cannot get themselves. Children are
taught in small one room schoolhouses, the Amish stress on teaching
the '3 R`s', reading, writing and arithmetic. They reject all modern
technology, they are self sufficient by growing their own crops, they
remain in a farming community separate from the rest of society and
they don't use electricity but instead they use a water powered
machine to help drive other machinery and windmills to make the grain.
The Amish wear distinctive clothes; they stand out because of their
plain clothes and use horses and carriages to get into town and other
villages for supplies. The Amish make a big effort to be self
sufficient; they do this also to protect the Amish children from
outside influences such as T.V and radio.
They don't use cars but use horse and carriages; they also don't use
electric lamps but oil lamps to see in the dark.
They stress the importance of the community and helping each other.
There is an emphasis on traditional skills and old trades being used.
Children's toys are made by hand from wood. In the barn raising scene
we can see how men and boys of all ages take part in the work and the
numbers compensate for the lack of modern equipment. Barns are built
are built for the couple who are soon to be married in one day, it is
also tradition to finish it on the day they start building it. This
scene also emphasises on the community spirit by having everybody
working, even though the women don't work on building the women do
traditional female tasks such as preparing a feast for all of them
where they will all eat together. The women also work on the
embroidery. All of the women's work is highly valued and the women are
very well respected in an Amish community. All of the tasks, such as
milking the cows, are done by hand which is very time consuming so
they have to get up at a very early...