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Witness, Directed by Peter Weir

Paramount Pictures, February 8, 1983 (US)

Screenplay: Earl W. Wallace and William Kelley

Starring: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Josef Sommer, Lukas Haas, Jan Rubes, and Alexander Godunov

Endless swaths of the planet remain unobserved. To name a few: destinations we never have the time or the money to visit, fleeting moments eluded during sleep, conduct blocked from visibility, relics decimated in the past, and reaches of Earth that man cannot physically claim. Now, ponder the reality for anyone born blind.

Daniel Hochleitner (Alexander Godunov): So, first time to the big city? You’ll see so many things. Close your eyes.

Obscured views are unavoidable. People claiming to have “seen it all” expose themselves as delusional with an assertion so thoroughly short on vision. We see what we choose and little else. The rest yields to a widespread periphery, which extends away from our narrow scope of awareness. Indefinitely.

Samuel Lapp (Lukas Haas): I would only kill a bad man.

Eli Lapp (Jan Rubes): Only the bad man. I see. And you know these bad men by sight? You’re able to look into their hearts and see this badness?

Samuel: I can see what they do. I have seen it.

Eli: And having seen you become one of them? Don’t you understand? What you take into your hands, you take into your heart.

Nevertheless, bewilderment is a pallid excuse to avert unfamiliar domains. On any given day, over fourteen billion capacious pupils dart about, scanning disorienting vistas, which the human brain readily flips right-side-up. Between every blink—staccato intermissions when lashes and lids meet, wiping glassy corneas clean, polishing attentiveness to a luster—nature’s aperture aligns our surroundings. Let the attuned descry the wonders for the myopic multitude.

John Book (Harrison Ford): But Samuel’s probably gonna have to come back and testify. I’m sorry.

Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis): No, you’re not. You’re glad.

John: What?

Rachel: Because now you have a witness.

John: Yeah, now I got a witness.

Each of us has an obligation to discern as many burgeoning enclaves as healthy retinas can tolerate, in order to cultivate objective compassion. Look around. A gentle child from Pennsylvania’s Amish country surveys a jostling urban train station for the first time. A hardened downtown cop seeks refuge in a bucolic community that philosophically contrasts his own conventions. An unattached man gazes though an open doorway into the passionate stare of a young widow caught bathing. The scenarios emerge as an entrée for fictitious and living spectators to permeate remote corners of the world. The resulting symbiotic exploration provides an ocular curative, making both distant and nearby images, otherwise indiscernible, perfectly clear.