The Academy Awards are on tonight so I thought I’d take this moment to reflect on the movie from which almost everything Amish in film is measured against: Witness. Witness was nominated for eight Oscars and ultimately won two, one of which was Best Original Screenplay. This movie, starring Harrison Ford, is one I have seen – not surprisingly – probably 10 or 12 times, at least. And I love the movie just as much each time. Yes, it’s fiction, but I do think it is respectful fiction and that sentiment increases as the current batch of Amish-themed TV gets put on the airwaves. At least Witness is an honest entertainment movie not masquerading as a documentary. The plot is at least somewhat plausible. Yes, some of the more immodest moments are pretty implausible, but the film doesn’t ignore the human elements of the Amish. The movie does Amish country justice in its scenery portrayal of the beauty and peace of Lancaster County and I think the film does a good job of highlighting the inherent tension between Amish and non-Amish society. In an interview conducted a year or two ago I heard Harrison Ford say that the movie has “held up well” over time and I agree with that sentiment. The movie was released in 1985, but I think most of the messages of the movie and Amish portrayals hold up just as well today as they did then.
I think the barn-raising scene is probably my favorite, along with the scene where John Book decks the bullying townsfolk. That scene was, perhaps, a bit overplayed and improbable, but it was entertaining.
Do you have a favorite scene from Witness?