Samson & Delilah

3 Oct

Director: Warwick Thornton (2009)

I  remember reading about Samson & Delilah when Thornton picked up the award for Camera d’Or at Cannes in 2009 and thinking that there is a distinct lack of films about the Australian outback. Well, films about the Australian outback that don’t involve semi undressed girls running from maniacal inbreds living in desolate shacks after their car not-so-conveniently breaks down…

Samson & Deliah is a subdued film, with almost zero dialogue, instead utilising the beautiful scenery, balancing the ambience of life in a remote outback village with Aboriginal tradition and the grit of being an outsider in Alice Springs to tell its story. It is fascinating how Thornton is able to create what is essentially a love story with minimal interaction and speech between his two characters. But after a while, the film’s silence becomes almost a comfort, encouraging a kind of pensivity as we watch the two young protagonists grow to love one another in a world which seems to only want to reject them.

With death and addiction being overriding themes throughout the film, Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson own the screen with a presence that is far beyond their years. While Delilah’s premature adulthood comes with caring for her sick grandmother, Samson’s is self inflicted as, in an attempt to escape for the boredom of his life, he resorts to petrol sniffing to get him through. Aggressive and immature, Samson’s affections for Delilah are met with disdain until Delilah finally admits defeat after losing the one thing she cares about and being cast out by her community.

The two escape their small town life for Alice Springs, perhaps believing life would be better there, amongst people. But after growing up with the silence of the outback, their introduction to the characters and chaos of the city is by no means a welcoming one. The language barrier between the audience and the characters works to contribute to the feelings of isolation Samson and Delilah experience in the city, just as we are isolated from the characters themselves with their incomprehesible language and traditions.

As a love story, there are problems. While their relationship is beautiful as it develops before us on screen, I found it hard to understand exactly why they fall in love. For  a relationship built on resentment and what can only really be described as kidnapping, I couldn’t help but think perhaps their love was formed as part of their reticence for a way of life that forgot about their youthfulness, forcing them into an adulthood they were in no way prepared for. The final scenes are undoubtedly touching, as the two merge into their new life together – but still as removed from society as they were at the start of the film. But perhaps now, at least they are alone, together. While the film doesn’t offer any kind of real resolution, it does succeed in transferring an atmosphere and a feeling to its audience. As the credits rolled, my friend and I sat back and smiled, appreciating such a tranquil and moving insight into what is essentially a brutally honest portrayal of what has become of Aboriginal communities torn between their tradition and the inevitable influence of the outside, centralised world.


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