HSC English Standard – Module B ‘Witness’
By Aiman Ahamad
John Book and Rachel Lapp could never have a successful permanent relationship. Do you agree? Relationships may be permanent or temporary. Different relationship will experience obstacles but may receive considerable rewards. There are many factors that can affect the relationship between people like clash of cultures, their inability to conform to alternate societies and the fundamental values upon which they base their lives. John Book and Rachel Lapp could never have a successful permanent relationship. “Witness” (1985) directed by Peter Weir. The clash of cultures between Rachel and John is a major factor that affects their relationship deeply. Their inability to conform to alternate societies is also a key factor that influences the effectiveness of their relationship, along with the fundamental values that underpin their lives. The clash between Amish pacifism and modern American societies attitude towards violence also affects their bond. These components have affected Rachel and John’s ability to have a long-lasting relationship. The clash of cultures is a significant component that results in the breakdown of their relationship. The way John and Rachel live is so far removed from one another that it serves as the backdrop for the film as it explores the clash of cultures. John Book is polite and respectful towards Rachel, Samuel and others. A close up was used when John sat at the same level with Samuel to reflect that he respects him. John is labelled by Eli as ‘the English’ the minute he crashes into their bird house. The car crashes to the bird house is symbolic as he crashed to the Amish community uninvited. This implies that his presence is not welcome. Rachel and Samuel look out of place when they were saying grace while John eats the hotdog looking uncomfortable. The opening of the film itself reflects this clash of culture with an extreme long shot to show the buggy holding up the lines of traffic. The clash of cultural identity between Rachel who is living in the Amish society and John who is living in modern American society is also one of the main reasons that will always affect their relationship. Rachel appears more resistant to accept modern American culture than John willing to explore the Amish culture. It is evident that the clash of cultures is a significant factor that affects John and Rachel’s relationship. ‘Barn rising’ is a major scene in which shows John trying to fit in by participating in the community activities. He also wants to demonstrate his gratitude and his kindness by participating at the barn raising. John is proving to the Amish that he is helpful. In the barn raising only John wears a white shirt, it reflects that he doesn’t belong and is different. The gender division of women doing the cooking, serving and the men doing the labor duties reflect the Amish values of the gender roles. The stolen glance between John and Rachel shows that their relationship is not welcome in the community. The use of long shot is to show the progression of the barn and prove that they are united. Rachel is impressed by John as he is exceeding the Amish expectations. Daniel is impressed by John as he proves his worth through his building prowess. The fact that John is at the highest level working on the barn scaffold shows that he’s trying to prove himself. Low angle shot is used to show that the barn is big and demonstrate their collective attitude which proves that they are unified. It is apparent that the Amish community knows about the bond between Rachel and John as the Amish woman said “Everyone has an idea about you and the Englishmen, Book”. Rachel replied “All of them charitable, I’m sure”. The Amish woman replied “Hardly any of them” to point out that Rachel and John are being inappropriate. This reflects that John presence is not welcome and is disturbing the Amish...