2010 HSC English Standard – Module B ‘Witness’ By Aiman Ahamad ————————————————- John Book and Rachel Lapp could never have a successful permanent relationship. Do you agree? Relationships may be permanent or temporary. Different relationship will experience obstacles but may receive considerable rewards. There are many factors that can affect the relationship between people like clash of cultures, their inability to conform to alternate societies and the fundamental values upon which they base their lives.
John Book and Rachel Lapp could never have a successful permanent relationship. “Witness” (1985) directed by Peter Weir. The clash of cultures between Rachel and John is a major factor that affects their relationship deeply. Their inability to conform to alternate societies is also a key factor that influences the effectiveness of their relationship, along with the fundamental values that underpin their lives. The clash between Amish pacifism and modern American societies attitude towards violence also affects their bond. These components have affected Rachel and John’s ability to have a long-lasting relationship.Order now
The clash of cultures is a significant component that results in the breakdown of their relationship. The way John and Rachel live is so far removed from one another that it serves as the backdrop for the film as it explores the clash of cultures. John Book is polite and respectful towards Rachel, Samuel and others. A close up was used when John sat at the same level with Samuel to reflect that he respects him. John is labelled by Eli as ‘the English’ the minute he crashes into their bird house. The car crashes to the bird house is symbolic as he crashed to the Amish community uninvited.
This implies that his presence is not welcome. Rachel and Samuel look out of place when they were saying grace while John eats the hotdog looking uncomfortable. The opening of the film itself reflects this clash of culture with an extreme long shot to show the buggy holding up the lines of traffic. The clash of cultural identity between Rachel who is living in the Amish society and John who is living in modern American society is also one of the main reasons that will always affect their relationship. Rachel appears more resistant to accept modern American culture than John willing to explore the Amish culture.
It is evident that the clash of cultures is a significant factor that affects John and Rachel’s relationship. ‘Barn rising’ is a major scene in which shows John trying to fit in by participating in the community activities. He also wants to demonstrate his gratitude and his kindness by participating at the barn raising. John is proving to the Amish that he is helpful. In the barn raising only John wears a white shirt, it reflects that he doesn’t belong and is different. The gender division of women doing the cooking, serving and the men doing the labor duties reflect the Amish values of the gender roles.
The stolen glance between John and Rachel shows that their relationship is not welcome in the community. The use of long shot is to show the progression of the barn and prove that they are united. Rachel is impressed by John as he is exceeding the Amish expectations. Daniel is impressed by John as he proves his worth through his building prowess. The fact that John is at the highest level working on the barn scaffold shows that he’s trying to prove himself. Low angle shot is used to show that the barn is big and demonstrate their collective attitude which proves that they are unified.
It is apparent that the Amish community knows about the bond between Rachel and John as the Amish woman said “Everyone has an idea about you and the Englishmen, Book”. Rachel replied “All of them charitable, I’m sure”. The Amish woman replied “Hardly any of them” to point out that Rachel and John are being inappropriate. This reflects that John presence is not welcome and is disturbing the Amish community. Rachel serves John first at the lunch table; she is deliberately disobeying the conventions of her culture. This is reflecting how she is being influenced by John’s presence and not conforming to the Amish values.
Rachel is determined to not be negatively influenced by the ‘idle gossip’ about herself and John. In the final moment of the scene John is sitting on the back of the cart while the rest of the men were singing a song in German. This emphasise that he doesn’t belong. This scene exhibits John’s desperateness of trying to be accepted into the Amish community. It also reflects the growing connection of John and Rachel’s relationship as Rachel devalues her culture in order to get closer to John. Rachel’s attraction to John leaves her with an inner moral dilemma as to conform to and uphold the Amish values, or to give in to er desire and break the cultural rules and be with John. There are several scenes that reflect Rachel’s nonconformity. In the ‘Barn building’ scene where Rachel serves John first emphasise that she is breaking her cultural values in order to be close to John. There are also signs of nonconforming when Rachel removed her bonnet before embracing and kissing John. When Rachel dances with John to the music in the ‘breaking the rules’ scene, she is taking a large step in devaluing her culture as she dances with an ‘English man’ who is not her husband.
In the ‘bathing’ scene where Rachel deliberately exposes herself to John, she is inviting him to take advantage of his attraction to her. The Amish are critical of John as he does not ‘fit in’, meaning he does not conform to the Amish ways. As John makes positive contributions within their community, he becomes more accepted. Ultimately, John cannot conform to the Amish ways permanently, so he leaves. But John tries his best to conform to the Amish ways temporary by milking the cows and engaging in daily chores and does not use violence against Schaeffer in the end in order to be accepted by the community.
He also wears Amish clothes to make him more accepted physically or on the surface. He participated in barn-building and mended the bird house. Whilst John makes efforts to conform, there are significant moments when he does not. Perhaps it is these small things that create the biggest and most impenetrable barrier between John and Rachel. The moments that reflect John’s nonconformity is when he tells Samuel that playing with an unloaded gun is alright, when he becomes frustrated and fight those bullies while saying “But it is my way” to emphasise that violence is necessary and cannot conform to the Amish ways as they are pacifist.
He also took part in the shooting of McPhee to highlight that he is part of modern society and is a gun-wielding policeman. These crucial moments are vital in addressing John and Rachel’s lack of conformity as it emphasise the status of their relationship. These small moments are very important as it emphasise their conformity. There are scenes in the film which shows, uncomfortable moments between Rachel and John because of their clash of cultures. In the ‘hot dog scene’ the mid range shot shows Rachel and Samuel saying grace and Book looks uncomfortable because he is out of place in this situation.
He knows he is doing the wrong thing. John is surprised about Rachel’s honesty and openness. He also feels uncomfortable at the end of barn raising and wearing the Amish clothes. When he was laying on the bed because of the gun wound, the Amish visited John to see how he is doing. The low angle shot of Amish looking down shows that he is uncomfortable. There are also a series of shots of John looking nervous to emphasise that he is uncomfortable in that situation. In the gun scene when Book shows Samuel the gun, John feels uncomfortable showing him the gun as John knows he’s doing the wrong thing.
John also feels uncomfortable when he wears Rachel’s dead husband’s clothes. This is an example of a clash of cultures as in western society they fear death and don’t talk about them while the Amish society moan about them in the morning and move on the day after. He also feels uncomfortable at the end of barn rising when the Amish leave singing German because he doesn’t know how to sing the song and looks he doesn’t belong. This is evidence that their different cultures is a big obstacle in their relationship as they are always small moments that show that a successful relationship is not possible.
In the scene ‘breaking the rules’ the use of lighting and close up is very important as it emphasise their developing relationship. This scene is very significant and romantic as Rachel broke the rules to continue to develop her relationship with Book. It begins with a high angle shot looking down at the car. The dark background contrasts with the lighting in the car makes it romantic. Rachel and Book sat very close together and they feel very comfortable sitting next to each other, the camera close-up on Rachel face looking at John emphasise Rachel passionate love of John.
When John said “Well, if I am still here” Rachel’s face looks sad and disappointed and the extreme close up of Rachel face shows that she is disappointed of the prospect John not being there. As the music begins, Book’s face becomes happy. The close up in this scene is significant as Rachel is not supposed to listen to modern music. A close up of John and Rachel’s face smiling at each other, the only light in the lantern and the lyrics of the song reflects their relationship. The camera tracking of John’s actions, change of light in the background, the car light is giving an incandescent glow.
It means romance, love and passion. A high angle shot showing Rachel and John, moving in and out of shadows, suggests that they are being frivolous, breaking the rules and acting like teenagers. A serious of extreme close up of their face almost kissing shows that they are in love. The use of dolly shots and moving with them to see they dance to emphasise their passionate love and growing attraction for each other. The mid range shot that shows Rachel and John being caught by Eli and the spotlight reflects that they are caught. Lighting is very significant as it emphasise that they are being caught.
The fact that Rachel is listening to music means that she has broken the rules of their society. Caught in the headlight is similar to breaking the rules and getting caught. When Eli is mad at Rachel, Rachel looks at him and don’t look at John to emphasise that she is sad that she cannot be with John anymore and Book looks guilty. When Rachel was quarrelling with Eli, Rachel angrily spoke “I have done nothing wrong against the rule of the Ordnung”, and Eli responded “You bring this man to our house with his gun on his hand”. The use of no natural light, and dolly shots emphasise Eli’s concern and Rachel’s rejection.
Rachel is not wearing her bonnet to emphasise that she is very relaxed with John and is rejecting her culture. This scene emphasises that Rachel has broked the rules of the Amish culture and is being caught by Eli as he is an essential obstacle that is blocking their relationship from continuing further. Rachel is being punished by her actions as she tries to secretly break the laws of the Amish community. This emphasises that their relationship is full of challenging obstacle that are deteriorating their relationship. The bathing scene is another crucial section that reflects Rachel nonconformity. Rachel deliberately exposes herself to John.
She is inviting him to take advantage of his attraction to her. This scene has no dialogue; it is telling the story through their expression and acting. The opening shot sees John seeing Rachel inside the house through the window. It shows that by seeing through a window, the window symbolises that there is a barrier between them. An extreme close up of Rachel bathing sexualises her. She permits him to see her naked. She is not conforming to the Amish values and is exposing herself as the extreme close up shows that John is looking away as he doesn’t want her to get in trouble as he respects her culture.
The extreme close ups of their faces shows that Rachel is upset that John doesn’t want to look at her. The next day Rachel is in the chicken coop. There is a chicken wire around the chicken coop and it makes her look angelic. John states that “If we’d made love last night, I’d have to stay” to Rachel through the chicken coop. The barrier is the chicken wire around the chicken coop that symbolises the barrier between them. It is evident that Rachel is desperate to be with John as she sacrifices her belief but John doesn’t want Rachel to be shunned as he rejects her by not looking at Rachel’s naked body.
It is apparent that their relationship is breaking down as John cares too much for Rachel and is sacrificing his relationship with Rachel in order for Rachel to not get into trouble. One of the key points of distinction between John and Rachel is their views towards violence. John is violence, aggressive, carries a gun and goes around whacking people compared to the peaceful, non-violent Amish. Rachel is a pacifist as dictated by her religion “I don’t want my son spending time with a man who carries a gun and goes around whacking people”.
The scene where Book educates Samuel about a loaded gun is significant as it reflect John’s understanding of violence. John tells Samuel it is dangerous when playing with a loaded gun but he can play with an unloaded gun. The bullet being removed by John is a concept of the danger being taken away. John thinks that a gun without bullets is safe “Now I’m taking the bullets out, now it’s safe okay? ”. The close up of the notorious gun is to demonstrate that is it violent. Rachel caught Samuel holding a gun and this made Rachel disappointed at John. John Book, while you’re in this house, I insist that you respect our ways” said Rachel with a disappointed tone. The camera shot of Rachel holding the gun like a dirty towel reflect that the gun is a dirty weapon. Eli implies that Book is heartless and amoral by bringing a gun into the Amish community. Eli role in the film are to show authority over Rachel and show her what’s wrong and what’s right. He judges Rachel when she’s dancing and saying “You’ll get shun” to Rachel. He is the voice of the religion. He also teaches Samuel what’s right and what’s wrong. He represents traditional Amish view and values in the film.
Eli is a fervent pacifist. He is very moralistic about the importance and significance of pacifism as a means to achieve peace. He states that “We believe it is wrong to take life” the use of ‘we’ is an inclusive language to refer to the Amish community. He also said “there is never only one way remember that… what you take into your hands, you take it into your heart”. John considers violence to be necessary in some circumstances such as in response to the bullies, shooting back at McFee in the car park, throwing the suspect up against the car and killing McFee in the end.
This emphasise that violence is a significant obstacle in their relationship as they have different opinions of violence which can cause a breakdown to their relationship. There are moments when Rachel and John partnership becomes more sexualise and increased their growing attraction as shown in the carpentry scene. Rachel creeps out of the shadow and walked slowly to emphasise her nervousness. A mid range shot is used to show that Rachel is nervous and John looks excited to see her. The shot of John drinking the drink sexualise John and emphasises Rachel’s attraction to John. Tomorrow I’ll let out those trousers for you” emphasises the sexual tension. Daniel is also another obstacle in their relationship as he is also interested in Rachel. When Daniel and Rachel were sitting on the chair, a mid range shot is used to show Daniel’s interest in her and Rachel disinterest of him and this sets up a love triangle. When John was walking towards Rachel, a low angle shot is used to emphasise Rachel’s interest in John. The absence of dialogue in the scene is used to create an uncomfortable mood. The tension between Rachel and John breaks down when John wears the Amish clothes.
The long shot of John with Amish clothes to emphasise that he looks ridiculous. “How do I look… Do I look Amish? ” John asked Rachel and she replied “You look plain”. This shows that Rachel had accepted Book into the Amish community. There was more sexualisation part in the twilight scene where Rachel and John kiss passionately. The tracking shot of Rachel walking towards John looking determined, a close up of John walking towards her, the absence of sound and the cliche lovers embrace as John and Rachel rush towards each other with passion and determination shows the lighting is natural to make it romantic and pure.
Passionate embrace where Rachel and John finally release their sexual tension through their almost violent kiss. The extreme close up coupled with a dolly shot emphasises their lust and passion for each other. It is their first and last moment of sexual connection. Their passionate kissing emphasises that they had wanted to release the sexual tension between them. Rachel was devastated when she knew John was going to leave the Amish community. Book giving Samuel a special present indicated that John will be leaving soon. An extreme close up tells the viewers that she has realised that Book will be leaving.
A long shot of Eli and John fixing the bird house is significant as the bird house is symbolic because John enters the Amish community by crashing to the bird house. Now he is fixing it indicates that he is leaving the Amish world. Rachel questioned Eli “He’s leaving, isn’t he? ” and Eli answered “tomorrow morning”. A mid range shot indicates that Eli is despondent. A long shot of Rachel makes she looks naive and childish. She knew he had to go, but is clinging on a hope that he would stay. Turning down the lamp is symbolic as it is similar to turning the relationship down.
The extreme close up of Rachel removing her bonnet in the dimmed room is reflecting her decision to reject her religion and culture. She is deliberately deciding not to conform. She knows that their relationship will never be successful as John is about to leave and this has made Rachel depressed. It is evident that John and Rachel could never have a permanent relationship because their cultures are too different. John violence cannot be control as he thinks violence is necessary and this is a major obstacle in their relationship as Rachel is a pacifist and doesn’t believe in violence.
The film ‘Witness’ directed by Peter Weir shows that the Amish is pure and is greatly juxtaposed by the American society. John have worked so hard in the Amish community in order to gain their acceptance involving working in the barn raising and at the farm. John knows that if Rachel have a relationship with him, she will be in trouble. As John cares too much for Rachel, he is doing Rachel a favour by leaving. Even though they had their romantic moments, it still wasn’t enough for John to stay. John’s commitment to Rachel is always strong but as they face their obstacles, their relationship deteriorates.