Peter Weir ventures out of his familiar surroundings to direct the incredibly scripted film "Witness" in 1985. In this film Weir contrasts the peaceful, serene setting of the countryside with the corruption of the city.
The film centres around a Pennsylvanian Amish community and particularly a young boy and his recently widowed mother; Samuel (Lukas Haas) and Rachel (Kelly McGillis) Lapp.
After Rachel's husband's death, she and Samuel leave their secluded community to visit Rachel's sister in Baltimore. On their way to Baltimore, at a train station in Philadelphia, Samuel witnesses a violent murder of an undercover narcotics officer. Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) is assigned the case and begins to interview the young Amish boy and his mother. After Book uncovers the killer's identity, hence the conspiracy behind it, he suffers a firearm injury from one of the perpetrators. Book returns with the Lapp's to Pennsylvania where he collapses due to his injuries and is forced to stay with the Amish until he recovers.
The rest of the film shows John's integration into the Amish community and his actions in resolving the corruption.
A main feature of the film Witness, and something that allows it to function, is the contrast of the Amish and American cultures. Weir uses both visual and auditory aids to portray this contrast. The film opens with a picturesque scene: green fields swaying on a light spring day, this is to illustrate the innocence of the Amish lifestyle, something that Weir does repeatedly throughout the movie. The camera pans with a group of Amish as they walk to the Lapp house. At this point someone unaware of the films direction or of the Amish faith could easily mistake the piece for being set in a past century. But Weir has a subtitle stating 'Pennsylvania 1984'...