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Essay : Witness (film by Peter Weir)

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Essay : Witness (film by Peter Weir)

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  • March 21, 2004
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The film, Witness, deals with characters in conflict with the world around them. Discuss the methods Weir uses to convey this idea of conflict.

In Peter Weir's film, Witness, several characters come into conflict with their environment. This is evident through the use of various techniques such as symbol, camera angle, and imagery. Samuel's protective life as a child in the Amish community is corrupted when he comes into contact with crime and the city and experiences a loss of innocence. By contrast, John Book faces many obstacles when he leaves his life in the city for that of the sheltered life of the Amish and suffers turmoil when he falls in love with Rachel, who comes from a world in which he cannot belong. Similarly, the corrupt policemen, McFee, Schaeffer and Fergie find obstacles when they enter the world of the Amish, looking for Book.

When Samuel is brought into Philadelphia it quickly becomes obvious that he is in conflict with the environment around him and we witness his loss of innocence at the railway station. Weir uses sound and camera angle as a method of showing Samuel's confusion. From low angle shots, viewers can identify with Samuel's perspective and can appreciate his confusion, noting that all the child can see is people from their midriff down, walking past in all directions. Weir also portrays Samuel's confusion by having many people talking at once, thus creating contrast between the buzz of a city and the peacefulness of his home. The director uses cinematography well in this scene. Samuel's conflict is evident when he is confronted with a huge statue. The camera slowly tilts upwards from a low angle until he can see right to the top; he is clearly not used to seeing something of this size. Aside from creating a vulnerability in Samuel, this contrast in size reveals his unfamiliarity with his surroundings, evident by the expression of awe on his face of wide-eyed innocence. The next shot is a bird's-eye view from the top of the...