The Spine of “Witness – 1985”


On the Amish farm, we bear witness to a funeral a symbol of death! The scenes that follow show farm lands and tractors, it’s a peaceful existence, one of solace. The departure from the native lands takes us on a journey into a whole new world. As the train speeds along the tracks, we see a horse and carriage as it races to keep up with the train but soon the train leaves the horse drawn carriage behind. This scene is significant because it symbolizes that the train is much faster than the horse drawn carriage. The train is a symbol of modern technology that was created by the new more advanced world that awaits their arrival ahead. The train, the Iron Horse, is taking the boy into the new modern world and he will bear witness to new and deadly discoveries.

I noticed that the camera angle was crooked during the initial scenes of the train station in the city. This is the symbol that this little boy has just entered a crooked world of corruption and deception. As the little boy walks about the train station he discovers a whole new world. Everything is so big! The boy stares at the statue of one man holding another dying man in his arms. This is another symbol of danger that awaits the boy.

The inciting incident: Boy witnesses Murder

PLOT POINT 1: Boy stares at photo in police station pointing at the murder suspect, a police officer!

PLOT POINT 2: Fearing that his photo will be taken, detective Book metaphorically threatens a lady to not take his picture with some new world euphemisms. The old Amish lady knows no difference. Detective Book gets notice that his partner is dead.

witnessMID POINT:  Detective Book, a man from the new world, a world of corruption, is now drawn into another world, the world of the peaceful and simple Amish society. Detective Book has taken the Amish boy and his mother home and soon his gunshot wound becomes prevalent as he crashes into the bird house while driving away. Unable to make it back to his world, he has just been plunged into a new one. The little Boy shows Detective Book his world, a simple place. Detective Book is dressed in Amish clothing. The little boy shows him around the farm. Detective Book is introduced to the customs of the Amish. The story takes a lighter tone with some humor. Detective Book is shown how to milk a cow. “Have you ever grabbed a tit before Detective?” Detective Book replies, “Not one this big!” The Amish man laughs. Soon they can be heard singing and dancing in the barn, but this is forbidden in the Amish world. We are presented with questions of emotional conflict between Rachel and Detective Book.

CLIMAX: Firefight at the farm.

END POINT: Crime doesn’t pay! The villains either wind up dead or in custody. Detective Book’s character has solved the case and therefore he must move on. He is from the big city and belongs there because it’s his home.

Detective Book could have stayed, but that is not who he is. He is a crime fighter and the city is bred in him. I think the title fits the bill here. The title of the movie is what the movie is about. It has bearing on audiences about what the story of the film is about.

The birdcage’s resurrection in Act 2 symbolizes to me the transformation of Detective Books character. He has found love and experienced a life he never knew before.  He has healed physically and emotionally and is ready to go back to his world and reclaim his own life.

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