Identity and Belonging: Witness

Topics: Amish, Hex sign, Life Pages: 4 (1549 words) Published: August 10, 2011
‘Where we come from and our attitude to it are powerful forces in our lives.’

“This gun of the hand is for the taking of human life. We believe it is wrong to take a life. That is only for God.” The conflicting notions and difference between cultures is thoroughly represented throughout Peter Weir’s stunning and thematically moving film ‘Witness’ in which two different worlds with two different value systems are profoundly presented to its viewers. Having a sense of belonging is essential to identity; it is a basic human instinct to belong and to have faith in certain beliefs, the preoccupations meaningfully explored within Weir’s creations. Moreover, through the use of film techniques and representation, Weir has managed to captivate and compel his audience to indulge into the hardships and strategic traditions in which the Amish community follow and also allows the audience to gain a further understanding to the extreme disciplinary law of the ‘Ordnung.’ The protagonist, John Book, faces a tedious journey to bring justice to contemptible crime and must undergo an ultimate sacrifice of ‘changing his ways,’ which would cause a crucial disregard to all his life lessons that have shaped and guided him, in order to gain the acceptance he subsequently strives for from his ‘former carers’ and unique counterparts of the Amish community. Book also faces the riveting dilemma to assert or deny his disreputable love with Rachel as well as apprehend where he truly belongs.

Weir’s film is positioned between two worlds; the good and the evil, decency and corruption, head and heart, the Amish and the ‘English’. Throughout the film, the complexities of parallel worlds are explored where the different worlds begin to sporadically intertwine. ‘We want nothing to do with your laws,’ at the beginning of the film when Rachel first becomes subject to Detective John Book’s questioning and police procedures, she is taken out of her comfort zone and is presented with a world she...
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