Samson and Delilah Reviews
Samson and Delilah is hard viewing and unsparing almost to the last. Even then the redemption it offers is perhaps ephemeral. But this wrenching film is also a tender, realistic love story and a lyrical piece of visual art. It unfolds mostly without dialogue, depending on the remarkable natural expressiveness of its untrained leads Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson, whose relationship play out as childish love-hate flirtation before they cling together in desperation and finally sink into the miasma of fumes that seems to offer escape from violence, homelessness and the sheer loneliness of being two lost kids on the face of a parched, uncaring planet.
Even with mild reservations about the ending, "Samson and Delilah" is a well-filmed and heartbreaking love story that also has much to say about the tragic state of the Aboriginal population in Australia, living lives of frustration with little opportunity at a better life.(To make matters worse, the only radio station they can get in their outback village is country western.) Thankfully, none of this is presented in a strident manner, as the arguments are presented subtly with little dialogue, almost as if their language, along with their culture, had been appropriated by the Europeans which finds them largely invisible.
An unsentimental love story that's not at all dull and worthy like it sounds, largely due to the thin thread of optimism running through it and the lively, realistic acting of the two leads. Even if some of the plot and symbolism are a little heavy handed, it still feels you've been shown the truth.
Filmed in Alice Springs, Warwick Thornton has drawn on personal experiences to create what is essentially a love story. Picturesque sunsets across wild plains and deserts are contrasted with the ugly reality that is true for so many indigenous communities across Australia. Through Thornton's film, the audience is brought to a sympathetic view of the problems of physical abuse, substance abuse and poverty that attack the indigenous way of life by trying to modernise it.
Adding to the film's authenticity, Thornton has developed the story using very little dialogue. Neither Samson and Delilah say one single word to each other throughout the 101 minutes of the film, and yet both Rowan Mcnamara (Samson) and Marissa Gibson (Delilah) show exceptional performances, given that they are untrained, raw talent.
Surprisingly, the story lies in its reference to the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah, connecting a loss of strength with loss of hair. Yes, this is not an easy film to watch, yet this truly memorable film is unexpectedly comical, dramatic, romantic, and most of all, hope-inspiring.
This story could be our American own, swapping African Americans or Native Americans for Aborigines. You want to reach out to Samson and Delilah, to feed them, clothe them, help them, or just to hear them speak. Their silence poses more profundity than their plaints, and those are rare and few.
This is a heartbreaking tale because we know it too well, we Euro-trash progeny. We know it because we're guilty of it. We know it because we feel the guilt in our bones. We know it because the entire history of the supposition of "white supremacy" is right there in Samson and Delilah's eyes for all to see.
I'm 'lucky' to be white, and the shame of it consumes me.
Samson and Delilah could so easily have been another piece of vacuous avant-garde cinema were it not for the talent of its two leads. Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson say more with their faces than other actors do with a thousand words and their naturalness, coupled with the realism of the film, often make this feel like a documentary. Theirs is an unforgiving world of loneliness and social isolation. Yet buried within the poverty, exploitation, boredom, violence and drug abuse are flashes of humour and moments of real tenderness between the two that keep the film from over-indulging in the squalor and decay of Aboriginal culture. If all that sounds a bit schmaltzy rest assured that director Warwick Thornton doesn't go the other way either, and often the happiness experienced by Samson, Delilah and viewer is bitter-sweet. Don't miss this beautifully shot gem of a film.