Witness Interview with Peter Weir

Interview with Peter Weir, Director of Witness.

We welcome one of Australia’s most acclaimed Directors, Peter Weir, to an exclusive interview with “The Art of Film” magazine. The oscar-winning movie ‘Witness’, released in 1985, conveys the themes of violence and action, tempered by love and romance and an on going struggle against the constraints of two opposing worlds.

Host: Welcome Peter, thank you for joining us.

Peter: Happy to be here.

H: In the first scenes, we are presented with the unified Amish, dressed in old fashioned attire, moving across the beautiful, picturesque landscape to Rachel’s husband’s funeral. This is soon contrasted with the hectic, modern, industrialised western society. The harsh, fluorescent lighting, loud noises and then the brutal murder Samuel observes in the station’s dirty toilets emphasise how different these two worlds are. The murder scene was confronting and set the tone of the two conflicting world’s. As a director, what is involved in creating that moment.

P: During the murder scene, I wanted quick, fast mid-shots to show the dramatic change between the two worlds. Juxtaposing these two world’s had to be notable through the cinematic techniques that were used as the cultural clash between these two worlds was enormous. The extreme close-up reaction shot of Samuel, wide-eyed and trembling was also important in allowing the audience to distinguish the difference between the crime genre and the peaceful ways of the Amish which created unbearable tension. The low angle shot of Samuel looking up towards McFee, emphasises the imbalance of power between the two characters.

H: We were all on the edge of our seats when the young Samuel was struggling to lock the door of the cubicle. I know my anxiety levels rose significantly. We were almost watching the murder through the eyes of Samuel, but you managed to also show all of Samuel’s emotions. How did you do that?

P: The murder scene was crucial to show the...