"How does the film 'Witness' portray the clash of cultures between the American and Amish people?"

Essay by malone2003A+, December 2002

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The thriller Witness was released in 1985, and it was instantly a massive success. Recipient of six Oscar nominations and one Oscar award, two British Academy nominations and a BA award, Witness is still considered by some people to be not only the director's, Peter Weir, best production but also to be Harrison Ford's crowning achievement. Even though it was after the release of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones Trilogies that Ford also obtained a starring role in and which are normally thought to be his best performances. This alone indicates that Witness must be a deeply involving and interesting film.

The film Witness centers around a Pennsylvanian Amish community and particularly a young boy and his widowed mother; Samuel (Lukas Haas) and Rachel (Kelly McGillis) Lapp. On route to Baltimore, in Philadelphia, Samuel spectates a violent murder of an undercover narcotics officer. Ford as detective John Book is dispatched to protect and interview the young Amish boy and his mother.

After uncovering a clandestine departmental matter Book suffers a firearm wound from one of the associated conspirators. Book takes the Lapp family to safety in Pennsylvania but then collapses at the wheel of his car. John is cared for by the Amish community and the rest of the film shows his integration into the Amish community and his actions in resolving the corruption. When not exciting us with a tense shoot-out, Witness amuses and entertains us with Ford's misadventures and achievements during his time within the Amish lifestyle.

The Amish people featured in Witness are part of a large concentration of the same faith who are situated in Northern Indiana, around the Great Lakes area, USA. They can trace their religious origins back to the end of the 17th Century when Jakob Ammon, (Ammon-Amish), left the Anabaptist...