Peter Weir’s 1985 film Witness, explores many themes but the two I am focusing on today are differing cultures and Pacifism and violence. Witness comprehensively depicts the story of an Amish family learn a lot about the ‘English world’, more than they wanted to know.
The first theme I am going to talk about today is the differing cultures. In Witness huge differences exist between the Amish and modern ‘English’ society. These include dress, language, religion and lifestyle. The conflict between good and evil, individual and communal responsibility with both cultures emphasising adherence to prescribed codes to behaviour, dominate this film.
The Amish have basic Christian beliefs; their faith embodies their whole way of life, the bible is taken literally. Their life is centred on the community more than the individual and is based on spiritual reflection and peacefulness. A major part of Amish life is serving the community and maintaining links with nature. They believe that they must remain separate from the outside world. Lifestyle is ordered, self assured and steeped in tradition.
The ‘English’ (modern American) is in complete contrast to the Amish. There is a capitalist focus on money, property and individual success and accumulating wealth is a central aspect of life. Corruption violence, intimidation, war and brutality are an accepted part of society as opposed to Amish pacifism. Loud, coarse and abusive language is a common part of life.
The clash of the cultures is established early in the film. The opening scene is a wide shot of green corn-fields moving in the wind. This immediately shows a remote setting, the accompanying music suggests a more peaceful way of life. The diegetic noise of horses’ hooves and close ups of the horses and buggy, is used throughout the film represent the Amish. The wide shot of the slow moving horse and cart with a...