I watched the wonderful Peter Weir film Witness yesterday, in fits and bunches. I wanted to see how the incredible John Seale cinematography looked on my HDTV, as there are some breathtaking shots of waving hay, sunrises and other evocative images. I especially groove to the menace shown at the end of the film, when the car filled with the bad guys appears over the ridge, turns out its lights and ominously slips backwards.
Unfortunately, the DVD I have is a very old one, and thus the transfer is abysmal. Speckling all over the place, distortion, and otherwise nearly unwatchable on my 50in Sony Grand WEGA. Luckily, the great story and amazing Maurice Jarre soundtrack remained unaffected and I was able to watch it one more time.
What a streak Peter Weir had:
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
- The Last Wave (1977)
- Gallipoli (1981)
- The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
- Witness (1985)
Heck, even Mosquito Coast, which followed Witness, was a pretty solid movie, if a little off kilter. I kind of lost track of him for a bit after that, although Master and Commander was a great seafaring flick, if not at the same psychological level as the aforementioned five. I blame Weir (and Beresford and Schepsi too) for my love of all things Australian!
Witness follows the adventures of John Book (Harrison Ford, in one of his best dramatic roles), a police detective trying to solve the case of a murdered undercover police officer. The murder was witnessed by an Amish boy (a remarkably cute Lukas Haas), traveling with his mom (the too sexy for Amish clothes Kelly McGillis) to Baltimore. After Book uncovers a nefarious internal plot, he smuggles them back to their Amish farm and, in the process, comes under their care. A very nice set of "fish out of water" vignettes ensues, as the violent, modern Book tries to recover in the staid Amish community. A violent ending is foreordained though and, in the end, the two worlds pull apart Book and Rachel Lapp.
I saw this when it first came out in the movie theaters. My date insisted the two should have come together in the end. But I think the tenderness of their inevitable parting only added to the realism of the entire movie.
Watching this today brings a special sense of poignancy, in light of the heinous Amish school shootings of last fall. A touching, sensitive movie, still a favorite despite the poor DVD video. Perhaps the newer, Special Collector's Edition disc will show better.