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Good morning/afternoon teachers and students we are here today at the HSC Study Day to discover and analyse the ideas and characters which are always centralised in films. Centralised in a matter of "Distinctive characters and ideas are at the heart of every film". Furthermore the film “Witness” directed by Peter Weir delves into the concept of the themes and characters.

In Peter Weir’s western showdown the metamorphose of clashing cultures are highlighted through his use of a variety of cinematic techniques. The cascading use of lighting and sound in the “Barn Dancing Scene” is used to symbolise the romantic tension between Book and Rachel. Through angling the camera of the car and upper mid shots of both Book and Rachel when they are inside the car and as they exit the vehicle, Weir zooms into Rachel’s face which is comprised with shock followed by a smile. By doing this Weir is able to manifest the notion of romantic tension between his two characters by confronting his audience with a situation that demonstrates Book’s growing fondness of Rachel. The use of soft and ever-present sounds is utilised to demonstrate the innocence of his characters emotions. Furthermore by applying these techniques the audience is pulled into a world which exacerbates the social regulations that may prohibit the growing relationship between Book and Rachel. This has a profound impact on the audience the rigid culture clash becomes ever more evident which Weir does purposely to expose his intentions towards the central theme of the movie – a culture clash.

Lighting is used in this scene to depict the impossible nature of the relationship. The lighting in the scene is low key. The main lighting technique used in this scene is Chiaroscuro. This creates a romantic atmosphere and thus romantic tension between the two. The use of this level of lighting shows the audience that there is a certain degree of romance between the two, but the fact that nothing happens between them sustains the romantic tension. The main lighting in this scene comes from the headlights of Book’s car.

In the film artificial lighting has always encompassed danger and negativity and the fact that the lighting creates tension in the audience, suggesting their union is doomed for its link to this Amish idealism: as nothing good comes from the new technologies of the modern westernised world. In comparison, the Amish setting is bathed in sunlight, representing a literal and metaphoric transparency or moral purity of its people.

Colour is used in an extraordinary way as it is used to symbolise and create the emphasised environment which is concurrent with the sound. The colour red symbolises passion and sexuality, the true awakening of the senses which Peter Weir has tried to enforce. This shade of red is used to show that Rachel’s passion is enflamed by Book. As the scene begins with Book and Rachel enclosed in a cramped broken down blue car, here Peter Weir is trying to enforce the calmness and purity held within the boundaries of the blue vehicle. The baby blue colouring of the vehicle shapes the meaning of that no impurities can impale the boundaries within. Once they leave the vehicle the colouring red takes over. (if time is right quote “ my body is a temple” – Richie Mel).

“What a Wonderful World” is heard playing in the background. “What a Wonderful World” is a diegetic sound, its music but it’s actually coming from the world thus it’s a shared experience between both of them not just music to give us atmosphere, it connects with the characters directly and immediately. The lyrics are important in that it shows that Book and Rachel lack experience about each other’s worlds, emphasising the disparity between the two cultures. Throughout the song, both characters act with a level of restraint, creating romantic tension between the two as the audience can see the level of attraction between them. This tension is then sustained as they look deeply into one another’s eyes. However book turns his head and returns to their polite relationship. It is at this point that the romantic tension between the two is at an extreme peak.

The “Bathing” scene is a scene of intense romantic tension, temptation and passion. Again, lighting, sound and symbolism are of particular importance in creating and sustaining the theme of romantic tension between Book and Rachel.

The only lighting that exists in the scene comes from the moon and a lantern that is in the bathroom with Rachel. Both are very low key and sensual, which creates a romantic atmosphere which in a clever matter continues the theme of romantic tension.

The sound in this scene is also diegetic. The storm outside creates evokes response in the audience as they are able to relate the stormy atmosphere with the created environment of fear. The lack of dialogue shows this awkward situation and the romantic tension that exists between Book and Rachel is prolonged by the lack of dialogue.

In Witness, water is seen as the harbinger of evil. The fact that Rachel is washing, suggests that she is purifying, but in the context of the film, it implies the fact that she is open to evil. A mid shot reveals Rachel’s naked torso. The mid shot used by Peter Weir forcing the attention of the audience to her breasts, sustaining tension by shielding them from the audience for as long as possible, and then astonishing the audience with the confronting image of naked Rachel. The extended eye contact between the two, as Rachel waits for a response from Book, is highly intense and is a source of much tension.

Book stares at the naked Rachel, which is an initiation for their sexual orientation - an `evil' act in the eyes of Amish law. Rachel's nakedness is symbolic of the purity of the Amish world. Book cannot look upon her nakedness as his stare corrupts the innocence of her being and her world.

Importantly, the finalisation of their relationship is not confirmed in this scene. Book and Rachel are merely depicted looking longingly at each other; therefore Weir does not allow for an evil act to occur, as it is metaphorically meaning the bridging of two opposing worlds, and thus stands beyond the moral definitions of either the modern or Amish perspective.
Throughout the film weir has used techniques to develop and sustain themes and the characters.
Peter Weir has shown this immensely well in the two scenes “Barn Dancing” and the “Bathing” scene. As we can all agree upon that Peter Weird has created distinctive characters and ideas which is the heart of this story and thus created an awarding winning film which lives up to it’s status not only as a film but also a learning guide. Hope you have appreciated my speech and please enjoy the rest of our HSC Study Day.…...

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