Friday, April 22, 2011

More Top FIlms: Witness

Witness is a great film. The cinematography, the music, the directing and acting are all top notch. However, when one considers the story… it could be considered pretty standard. The cop story, the love story, and the climax are all things we have seen before. What makes Witness more than just another great movie, and carries it over into the “top” category is the clash of cultures.

From the start this film conducts the viewer into another world. The scenes of the Amish in the opening with the dress, language, and customs are all things that many people never see in person. As the movie progresses, we experience 1980s America from the perspective of an Amish child. After the murder and the realization that police officers are behind the crime, Harrison Ford’s John Book is forced into hiding among the Amish. He has to live among them and try to fit into their world.

This is where the magic of the film lies. Those looking for a standard crime thriller may find the film slow. Those in search of a powerful romance are bound to remain unconvinced. However, the quiet reflective moments of daily life—the chores and community gathering and courting scenes—are fascinating.

An especially important scene is when Eli tries to explain to Samuel the danger of guns. It is not simply that Samuel could be hurt, as John previously said. Guns exist exclusively to kill, and Eli’s people are unequivocally against killing. When he asks Samuel to affirm that he would not kill another man, Samuel counters that he would only kill bad men. Eli wonders how Samuel could know a man’s heart. Samuel says that he has seen the actions of bad men; he can know them by their actions. Eli warns: “And having seen, you become one of them.”

This is that which the Amish (and many other people unwittingly) avoid. When we encounter other cultures and live among them, we change. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, but often we are enriched when we witness new ways of seeing the world. That is the gift of this story.

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