Peter Weir creates the theme of ‘conflict in cultures’ in his film “The Witness”. This is done with the support of his two sub-themes of violence and forbidden love. Through the use of many techniques such as camera shots, lighting, sounds effects and music, dramatic irony, and juxtaposition, Peter Weir successfully portrays the theme of ‘conflict in cultures’.
The director’s purpose of creating a theme of conflicting cultures is to make the audience aware of how impure the modern society has become. Throughout the movie the director shows the Amish in a favourable light to emphasise the beauty of their culture. The Amish are introduced as a traditional Christian culture that has maintained many pure aspects that have been lost in modern society. This is shown in the opening scene with the Amish moving together through the green wheat field. The use of soft music further associates the Amish with purity. They are each a part of an extended family not individuals. The director shows this aspect of togetherness to no longer exist in the modern world. The aspect of togetherness is shown to be a great strength of the Amish culture and ultimately defeats Shafer in the final confrontation. The Amish culture is contrasted with the modern world throughout the movie to create the theme of “conflict in culture”. The differences in the two cultures is shown through violence and forbidden love.
The director uses violence to show the significant contrast between the modern Western world and the Amish world. Within the murder scene at Pennsylvania train station, Samuel, a young, innocent and naive Amish boy views a horrific murder. The close up shot of Samuels terrified young eyes is strongly juxtaposed with the graphically depicted slitting of the victims throat along with violent sounds of the grunts and thuds. This is an unnatural scene to Samuel, one he would never have to experience within his Amish world. This emphasises the contrast between the two cultures in such a violent way. Furthermore the apathy of the villain evokes the audience to realise the reality of their modern world.
The differences between the two worlds are further explored through violence in the tourist scene. Tourists are shown to be physically assaulting and denigrating the Amish.