Witness: Old Amish Society

Topics: Amish, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Peter Weir Pages: 4 (1474 words) Published: October 8, 1999

In the 1985 film witness director peter weir explores the sharp cultural conflicts between the old Amish society of western Pennsylvania and the modern American world of crime and violence. The main character, Philadelphia police detective John Book (played by Harrison Ford), is forced into hiding by a group of corrupt fellow officers looking for a little Amish boy (played by Lukas Haas). The boy witnesses a brutal killing and identifies the policeman who did it from a photograph on the wall at headquarters. John Book and his witness hide in the house of the boys’s mother Rachel (played by Kelly McGillis) on a farm in the Amish country. The detective and the Amish widow gradually enter into a frustrated love affair, over objections of her father and neighboring youth (Alexander Godunuv) who sees Rachel as a potential wife.

The Characters of witness are strong drawn images of people from two different worlds. Book is very blunt and aggressive, but he is honest and decent enough to earn the respect of the Amish people. Rachel is very simple and sweet, But also very intelligent and independent enough to fight for her freedom to love an outsider. Her son Samuel is quiet and observant, but he plays a key role in going to the rescue after the three corrupt cops come to the farm to kill Book and the boy and eliminate the only witness to their crime. But it is really John Book who is the hero of the story. He escapes and then battles his would-be killers in an unlikely manner, and only leaves Rachel and her family after they are safe and secure from all harm.

The cultural contrasts portrayed in witness are perhaps the most obvious element of the story. Book and his world are full of violence, guns corruption, but the Amish world of Rachel and her family is quiet, gentle and deeply religious. Her son Samuel is fascinated with this strong, friendly policeman from the big city, but Rachel and her...
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