This 32-page book is printed in-house and contains a detailed semiological commentary prepared with the general reader, students and teachers in mind. 

For those who would like to use it as a teaching and learning aid in a classroom situation the film has been segmented into eleven sequences of 10 to 15 minutes duration.


Prologue + Going to Another World 
(DVD Chapters 1/2: 9 mins) 
Let the film roll until the shot of the train crossing the countryside 
As a sombre musical synthesiser theme plays on the soundtrack, the screen lights up to reveal a field of tall 
grass and a barely lit sky. A group of people in flat brimmed hats and bonnets move into frame on the right. 
The camera pans with them to the left. The group consists of old and young men, women and children. A 
young woman and a girl walk ahead but then stop and rejoin the group, taking up their place, at the rear. A 
horse drawn buggy appears on the left of the screen. It seems to sink right down into the grass and earth. In 
the third shot, the group of walkers emerges from the grass and moves towards the camera in a wide line. 
They seem to emerge from the very earth. Their movement is steady and we get the sense of a group whose 
members are totally at ease with one another. The music adds to the tone and gives a sense of nobility to 
these sons and daughters of the earth. A line of buggies appear next. We get a closer shot of the walkers as a 
tall blonde man seems to wave a salute. In the sixth shot of the sequence we realise that he has been waving 
to the people in the buggies. They fall in line behind the carriages and walk down the country laneway 
toward a farmhouse in the brightening morning light. The caption “Pennsylvania 1984” appears on the 
screen jarring the audience slightly - the costumes and buggies might have suggested an earlier era.   
Another series of six shots, this time interior and in close up, show the faces of women, many of them 
tear-stained. The lighting is very low. The black clothes contrast sharply with the elements of white in the 
costumes and we get the first in a series of compositions in the film that suggest interior scenes painted by the 
Dutch masters. Many of these paintings show women in sombre costume by doors and windows, which act 
as the main source of light for the composition. As the mournful voice of the preacher comes over the 
soundtrack the camera rests on a young woman, Rachel, in the sixth shot. The preacher stands beside an open 
coffin speaking in a German dialect of the two hundred and fifty years since the community arrived in this 
country. The camera rests on a heartbroken trio. We hear the names of  Jacob, the dead man, his wife Rachel, 
his son Samuel and his father Eli. Rachel glances at Samuel and Eli as their names are mentioned. Over a 
shot of the company, the music fades and we hear the words “I am the resurrection and the life. He who 
believes in me, although he is dead, still shall he live.” This is a faith community who bear witness to the 
word of their lord. 
We cut to the women working in the kitchen and the camera, which has been still during the ceremony, pans 
to the right after two children. It picks out the blonde man again and tracks after him. He pats Eli 
affectionately on the shoulder as a token of condolence. He moves to a group of men. He fits in easily with 
them and their earthy humour. We cut to another interior as he separates from the men and moves into the 
company of women circled around Rachel. Again the main source of light is the window and we have the 
painterly effect as the man stands before Rachel and pays his respects. He is Daniel Hochleitner. The women 
continue with their talk when he leaves. They may view his move as the opening of a ritual of courtship. And 
so ends the Prologue of this narrative.  
The next series of four exterior shots begins, once again, with the waving grass. The life of these people is 
bound up with nature and its cycles. The days are long and filled with  labour. With Jacob gone, work on the 
Lapp farm will be even harder. This waving grass is now established as a token standing for these people, the  
Amish. Directors often make connections between characters and settings, props and theme music. Once the 
link has been established, a pattern is set, and the setting, object or sound become a symbol standing for the 
referent, in this case the  Lapp family, and the Amish, in general. 
As the buggy travels along the road an articulated lorry is forced to snail along behind it. The soundtrack has 
the music and horses’ hoof-taps being drowned out by the roar of engines. We cut to a low angle shot of the 
lorry and traffic. This angle emphasises the size and power of the lorry. The buggy looks even more out of 
place, and time, at the intersection. We use the term mise en scène to cover all that appears in front of the 
camera. This film taps into the Hollywood tradition, seen especially in melodramas, of letting aspects of the 
mise en scène - objects, colours, furnishings etc. - take on a symbolic role that adds to the meaning of a 
scene. The lorry and buggy here can be read as symbols of two worlds - the old and the new, the traditional 
and the modern, rural and urban, and as the film progresses, the god-fearing and secular, Pennsylvania and 
Philadelphia. On the country roads the lorry growls behind the buggy as the traffic mounts up behind it. Once 
in an urban setting the buggy has to stop at traffic lights and the lorries and cars can get on with their journey.  
The camera tracks after Daniel as he moves courteously through the waiting crowd on the platform in the 
train station. He touches his hat as he greets Eli in the German dialect. Daniel tells Samuel that he will see so 
many things in the big city. This turns out to be very ironic in the light of what Samuel witnesses later. His 
line “So! First time to the big city?” begins the exploration of the binary oppositions, mentioned above. He 
has a very simple, wooden, hand-made present for Samuel who is delighted with the gift. They are a simple 
The train is also presented to us, the audience, in a low angle shot, which emphasises its size and power. The 
shot is accompanied by a loud roar from its hooter. Like the articulated lorry, it is presented to us as huge and 
noisy. Daniel is making his second move in his courtship of Rachel. “You’ll come back soon” he tells her. 
She smiles back at him from the train but hugs only Eli. She is still in mourning, after all. Eli warns her to be 
careful in the outside world, “Out among the English”, as he puts it. He sees his community very clearly as 
being separate and apart.  
Rachel and Samuel are very excited as they set out on their train journey. Daniel’s sense of humour is to the 
fore again as he races heroically, but hopelessly, with the train for the amusement of Rachel and Samuel. 
The shot from the train as the two of them look back at Daniel is another example of Weir letting the mise 
en scène add a layer of symbolic signification to the narrative. The technology of the  modern world  leaves 
that of the Amish way behind. That does not bother them, though. They want life kept simple, close to the 
earth. That is their world-view, their Weltanschauung. There is another low angle shot of the train that 
emphasises its power. Then the shot of the balloon drifting slowly and silently across the sky acts as a 
symbol for the quiet traditional way of life as opposed to the noisy modern one.