Notes on Witness

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Module B: Witness

This module requires students to engage in a detailed analysis of the text…respond imaginatively, affectively (emotionally) and critically. Explore and analyse particular characteristics of the text…

Topic Sentence
Witness, directed by Australian director Peter Weir, made in 1985 combines a crime story with a love story, creating a dual narrative.

Introduce question…

* This dual narrative film is set in 1984, in Lancaster, Philadelphia. * Amish members Rachel and Samuel Lapp are visiting the city after Rachel’s husband death, when Samuel witnesses the murder of a policeman. * As Samuel is a witness, he is needed to stay with the police in the city, to help the investigations, forcing the conservative family out of their comfort zone. * After Samuel identifies the murderer to the protagonist John Book, the criminals then find out that Book has this information, and try to kill him. * Book hides out in the Amish community, so they don’t find him.

* When book’s car crashes into the bird house on arriving at the Amish farm, it symbolises the two worlds colliding, which is very effective in visually showing the purpose and theme of the film. * Book develops a relationship with Samuel, acting as a father figure, and an intimate relationship with Samuel’s mother, Rachel. Although in the end they are forced not to be together, as they are from such different backgrounds

Empathetic characters are essential in any film. They must identify similar problems to the audience’s lives.

At the beginning of the film John Book is presented as a hardened police detective, who is very focused on his job, with his world full of aggression and corruption. Although the other side of Book slowly emerges and the film progresses, and he appears warm to Samuel and Rachel, and we see his soft side as he falls for Rachel, and becomes comfortable in the Amish society. By the end, the audience sees him go back to his old ways, as his gun comes back out, and him comfortably smoking with the police.

At the commencement of the film Rachel Lapp is portrayed as a humble widow, who has recently lost her husband, as the film opens with the funeral. She seems very devote to the conformity of her culture. Although, a degree of intimacy with Book creep through, as her relationship with him deepens

Samuel Lapp, Rachel’s son, represents innocence in the film. Yet he is soon exposed to a violent crime, and his innocence is lost forever. This is evident when Eli attempts to explain to Samuel that the Amish don’t believe in killing people, Samuel says he would “only kill a bad man”. When asked how he would know if the man is bad, he replies “…I have seen it”

The two elements of the plot, the love story, and the crime story, make up the genre.

A genre is a film type that can be identified based on the content and atmosphere of the film. Witness doesn’t conform to one particular genre, but uses elements from crime thriller, and romance, as Weir has manipulated the elements from both genres, to contrast the crime thriller sharply against the romantic scenes in the film

The crime thriller genre is shown through the American stereotyped corrupt cops, for example the gun is a symbol of this genre. It is a symbol of Book’s world, and a threat to the Amish, shown as Rachel handles the gun with hate, and Eli tells Samuel to “Not touch the unclean thing”, quoted from the bible, and that no human should take anther human’s life

The romance genre is shown in a very powerful and refreshing way. For example particularly in the shower scene, the desire for love is shown less obviously, and more innocently, then in most common films.

These two genres create a clash of cultures theme throughout the film.

* Witness is a film about clashing of two ideologies. These ideologies are those of the Amish, and of the modern English...
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