Witness: Amish and Modern American Society

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Module B: Close Study of Text
Text: Witness ‘Witness’, an American film, directed by Australian director Peter Weir, is a film set in 1985 about a clash of modern American society, and an idyllic Amish community. Maeri Saeli describes it as “the two worlds meet, but never merge” This is shown in the interaction between ideas, characters and techniques that make an impact on the audience.
The main ideas represented in this text are Violence versus non-violence/ pacifism versus direct action, relationships, and the clash of cultures.
Through exploring these ideas characterisation becomes evident and many techniques are used such as film techniques, symbolism and these can be recognised by analysing scenes.
Violence versus non-violence is represented through the clashing of the two cultures and the differences of their cultural values and ideals. The modern American society, where Book is originally situated is evidently a society that uses much violence to achieve things whenever necessary. This type of society is visually implied by Peter Weir as being corrupted, seedy and violent in nature which is shown through darkness, and filming is often conducted under the cover of night, in crowded and cramped spaces, and by using artificial lighting. For example the scene conducted at the Happy Valley night club shows this type of violent and depressive society. Book grabs a suspect from inside the cramped and sordid bar, takes him outside into the night and slams his face into the car window, for Samuel to identify, where we see the shocked faces of Samuel and Rachel who wait inside a light blue car - which represents their purity and innocence during this situation and this contrasts with the dark, violent and ‘foreign’ society that surrounds them. As this light coloured car is owned by Book, it is also suggestive that although he uses violence, Book is a good and moral man at heart which is revealed throughout the film. Thus these examples show that this modern

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