Witness Essay

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Peter Weir's film, 'Witness' constructs two dichotomous moral codes, violent modern America and traditional Amish society. As a result of their interactions with one another we see differences break down. This essay will examine the methods the director uses in manufacturing, and then redefining the oppositions between the characters, thus exploring the relationship between mainstream, modern America and the niche community who choose to live outside it.

Weir creates a dichotomous relationship between the Amish and the Western World. The Amish define themselves in distinction to the mainstream, thus they cannot exist without them. The moral codes of the two societies are often contrasted throughout the film. The Amish moral codes are based around community fulfilment, they work together as one so they can benefit from each other and form a stronger community. This is exemplified in the the barn raising scene. It signifies the town coming together as one to lend each other a helping hand. Weir uses sunshine and brightness when the viewers see Book in Amish attire for the first time, contrasted to the grey/black clad Westerners, seen throughout the film. As sunshine is often associated with happiness and positive changes, this transformation of Book as an American to an Amish proves that the Amish moral codes can be beneficial. The film proposes that innocence and decency are possible, and that corruption and cynicism are not all-pervasive. UNIFORM, DISTINCTION BREAKING DOWN.

Because Weir constructs America as violent, the Amish, in contrast become passive. The theme of violence versus pacifism is effectively portrayed and presents two very different responses to problems. In the murder scene, a close-up shot of Samuel’s eyes emphasise his innocence. This is juxtaposed with the cutting to close-ups of the brutal slitting of the victim’s throat along with violent sounds such as grunts and thuds as seen by a subjective view shot from Samuel’s perspective....
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