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I just saw this film at a screening in Melbourne following its premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival and was highly impressed. Not often are we shown Aboriginal stories shown on the big screen and told with sensitivity and realism. The filming of the Central Australian landscapes are beautiful and the characters are sweet, endearing and maddening at times (the grandmother is the most joyful character and worth the price of admission alone). Following the story of two star crossed lovers and the reality of Aboriginal life in the Territories, this is a film that should be shown widely and help to dispel the myth that the Australian film industry is somehow lacking - with films like this being produced, it's certainly not - we just need to see more of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Samson and Delilah is a film that all Australians should see. It is
confronting and disturbing: poverty, unemployment, petrol sniffing,
violence, clashes within aboriginal communities and with so-called
mainstream society. Nevertheless in keeping with the optimism of its
writer/director Warwick Thornton, it offers some hope.
Warwick Thornton told Real Time magazine that:
"I'm one of the biggest romantics in the world and, from day one, these two kids had to live. That was the most important thing. It would have been quite easy for them to die and that's just wrong, that is so wrong. I couldn't live with myself as a writer. I need them to live for me as a human being, to feel stronger."
This is a very personal story about teenage love, more Romeo and Juliet if anything. The one bit of good fortune they have is that they are the right skins for marriage. The hair-cutting connection to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah is based in an ancient aboriginal custom.
Their courtship and bonding are unique, as Samson doesn't speak. Traditional communication such as sign and body language are a necessity.
This drama cannot be divorced from its social and political context. The seeming hopelessness and helplessness of remote aboriginal communities like this one screams out for not just understanding but some way forward. Some will not be happy with the solution presented here as it involves traditional homelands, demonised by some Australian commentators as "cultural museums" that offer little positive for the future.
Samson lives out the despair of many young men caught in this cultural chaos. Their lives revolve around western music and fading attempts to maintain traditional connections to land and family. Chronic boredom and lack of purpose exacerbate the aimlessness.
Delilah spends her time supporting the only functioning member of her family who is around, her Nana (Mitjili Napanangka Gibson). When the inevitable happens the pay back aunts follow ritual in punishing her but offer little other help to this 14 year old.
Their escape to Alice Springs reflects the everyday life of many aborigines who have looked to towns for some solution. We see the exploitation of indigenous artists, local hostility to the homeless, the massive gulf between tourists and the people they have come to see. Gonzo, played by Warwick's brother Scott Thornton, is a riverbed refugee who finds solace in cask wine and his own songs. He is their sole support in Alice. When he looks to religion for his salvation, they do not follow this well-trodden path.
Thornton brings out the best in his inexperienced cast. The performances of relative newcomers such Marissa Gibson Rowan MacNamara are remarkable. They handle the tragic and comic moments with equal ease.
The Real Time interview, the official website and its downloadable Press Kit have detailed insight into Warwick's motivation and methods. Both well worth a visit.
"Everybody owns a reason for being. In everybody's journey through life there is the good fight. Samson & Delilah is my reason for being. It is my good fight. (Warwick Thornton)
OK, so I finally went out and watched this film and I really did not
like it a great deal either. I am Aboriginal and from a small community
and now live in the city and I am very familiar with a lot of what the
I think the acting was great and they both came across very real but I think the script or lack of was very unbelievable. I understand why Samson didn't speak, because sniffing petrol actually destroys the brain, but Delilah should have spoke at a lot of times. There is no reason for her not to speak, especially since she seemed at least a bit switched on. I understand her Nan just died and that affected her, but it is just not really real that she would have not have said anything to Samson ever. If she had enough frame of mind to go get paint and canvas and try to sell she would have definitely at least said something to somebody. I think the film maker was trying to be artistic and he sacrificed dialogue for it, and it was not believable to me. I also understand non-verbal communication is a very big part of my culture, but when we are with our own people we talk a lot. I know a lot of people dealing with similar things and they definitely speak. I had no problem with Samson not speaking because of the petrol, but I had a very big problem with Delilah not speaking.
Also, people keep saying they communicated through body language and looks, but for the most part they didn't do that either. They did it a little in the first few scenes at the town camp but after that they didn't really communicate at all, it was more like she was just following him around and he was too high off petrol to really care. By not allowing his characters to speak he did not allow them to express their frustrations and anger and this really was a let down.
I also did not believe it as a love story. The first scenes of courting made sense but she did not seem to take a shine to him at any part of the movie, it just seems like she stayed with him just because. I mean did she ever even smile at him? Aborginal people are very passionate and it makes no sense to me why they did not really interact with each other or what she liked about him.
I think a lot of people who like this film think it gives them a glimpse at remote Aboriginal life, but I think it does not offer any explanations and leaves too much open for interpretation and it seems to me most people interpret wrong. I also am not comfortable with the shoplifting thing and the lack of positive Aboriginal characters. There are never any good Aboriginal characters for our youth to aspire to be like on TV, all we got is sports and music, thats not good.
I think the praise this film is getting should have been given to Yolngu Boy ten years ago. That is a film that was criminally overlooked and still is.
regarding Samson and Delilah, I liked the portrayal of petrol sniffing but as an "optimistic love story" that it is presented as, I see no optimism in the film just hopelessness (which I personally don't feel reflects reality) and I did not believe it as a love story either.
I think it might have worked as a short film but as a feature film it is very underdeveloped and really does not allow people to connect with the characters or the story. I have no problem with people liking art type films, but when it is presented as being real and as a reflection of Aboriginal life in remote communities but it really is not real because it is trying to be artsy, I have a problem.
This is an uncanny film which shows a side to Australia most
Australians would prefer not to know. First Time Director Thornton
presents a series of small tragedies without preaching, moralising and
mostly without words, in a similar way to Cronenberg's masterpiece
Spider. He creates an uncomfortable atmosphere, which is confronting
but wholly realistic.
The main characters rarely speak. Delilah speaks only in an aboriginal tongue. Samson says one word in the whole movie, and that is a laboured attempt to say his own name. Other characters speak English freely, creating a point of difference between Samson and Delilah and the world they encounter. It also alienates them further.
This film gives a snapshot of the effects of substance abuse, extreme poverty, the violence within aboriginal society as well as the violence directed at it and worse of all the general apathy of the white population to these issues. The acting is unpretentious, the soundtrack sparse and conversation is absent.
The tragedies experienced by aboriginal people have no simple solutions. The first step toward a solution is to be aware that there is a problem. This film does that in spades. The sparse non-verbal presentation makes the viewer have to work to interpret the images shown. In the process one may glean an intuitive understanding, which is often the role of art.
This movie is one that demands something from the movie goer. It needs to grow on you slowly. The pace is slow and if the audience is patient and prepared to give something back to the film it will affect you. I found it repetitive at first but rather than switching off I stayed with it and was glad I did. The acting is excellent. It is not a movie for the feint hearted and it is depressing. It should be. It is a film about hopelessness. Its hard to like Samson yet there are moments he smiles and your heart goes out to him. Della is superb as is the old woman and the drunken man who lets them share his home. Films like this should be made as there is an honesty you rarely see, the film is not dogged by political correctness. There is a danger people will not feel compassion for the characters as they are not glamorous likable people. The more you allow the film to touch you and you open your heart and your mind you will feel great compassion and love.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One goes to a drama to suspend disbelief. Whether you are a believer or
sceptic, Samson and Delilah is different. This is true realism, the
director establishing time in a truly cinematic way. The beginning is
slow, with the utter boredom of the characters shown by the repetition
of scenes in which nothing changes. Later in the film a very subtle
sequence shows the lapse of time by the change from a full moon to a
crescent. Other viewers seem to have misinterpreted this sequence. This
is true cinema. Samson is a petrol sniffer. In a community where there
is no work, no commercial entertainment, and no fun, Samson and his
brothers try to amuse themselves. The result is violent, but funny.
Delilah is learning to paint with the help of her grandmother. Painting
is a valuable source of income to the Australian aboriginal. They say:
'You whitefellers have to go to school to learn art; we know, in here.'
Australian film makers have an enviable reputation for documentary.
This is a documentary with a story. We now have a tradition in
photography, cinematography and the graphic arts, particularly amongst
Aboriginal women, that is very significant. It is no surprise that the
Aboriginal woman has brought new weight to feminism. In Samson and
Delilah, Delilah finishes up with the power. She controls the gadgetry
- and the psychology.
We don't need to be told that Samson thought Delilah was dead. He is shown inspecting the skid mark. This movie is so full of these subtle hints. So Delilah appears with her hair 'done.' Well, she'd been in hospital for two weeks, hadn't she?
Don't go by the fact, it's an Australian film made by a virtually
unknown aboriginal writer-director-cinematographer Warwick Thornton on
a shoestring budget with untrained first-time actors. "Samson and
Delilah" is a movie Robert Bresson, Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog or
Federico Fellini would have been proud of at the pinnacle of their
glory. (And in the true Australian tradition, the next movie by Warwick
Thornton may turn out to be a total dud whatever happened to Stephan
Elliott? but I hope not.)
It's made in the austere style of minimalist emotions pioneered by Bresson in 1950s and 60s. There is no background music, other than a few recordings the two characters listen to on radio or tape; and hardly any dialogues (the two 14-year old aboriginal protagonists don't exchange a single word throughout the film).
Getting bored? Don't be. It's a profoundly touching and satisfying art film, the like of which we have not seen too many in the history of world cinema. It would easily be in my personal top-50 best movies of all times. However, if the best of Robert Bresson, Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog and Federico Fellini bore you, then please don't bother.
Saw this at Cinema Nova in Carlton this afternoon..There was a lineup
of 100 deep to get into the cinema, something I have never experienced
before at Cinema Nova..The movie started and there was silence..around
us and in the movie! Words weren't needed..Things we have read, things
we have been told about, we watch unfold in front our eyes..Unflinching
in in it's portrayal of a culture and people abandoned and victimized
by us Australians..The movie itself is brilliant, but what message will
we take away from it? Go to work tomorrow and discuss with people how
brilliant it is? Have lunch/dinner with friends and rave on about it's
searing truth? We were ready to help the people affected by "Black
Saturday" so generously, but what about these people who need such a
huge helping hand and who have been truly abandoned by us even though
they are the original bearers of this great land of ours? Such
fantastic pictures we paint of Australia, mate! Sunny, beaches,
seafood, Opera House, the Harbour bridge etc..but for these people the
reality is painfully far from all that..
Deeply affecting for me, I hope that everyone at the cinema today felt the same..As a nation, we need to galvanize ourselves so that we may save this important heritage from becoming completely extinct..But I fear many of us will shy away at the magnitude of the task ahead..It's a race of people we have hardly ever understood and so different that we steer clear..Yes, I have been one of those people who have looked at them with suspicion in stores, in super-markets, in restaurants and cafés etc..I have learned a few things today and hope I can help in some way..
Watch this please, it's an important movie with huge social implications for our society and for us as Australians..Too beautiful for words, Samson and Delilah will take your breath away
Great film based on what can only be described as insider knowledge.
Loved the non verbal communication. Dialog isn't necessary to make this
Yep people do take their ill relatives around to shop, nurses clinics, etc gee just like in our society, This shows the level of dedication of people in these communities. Remember these people live in their country not necessarily where there is employment and opportunity. I know of one teenager in a remote community who carries his grandmother up and down the stairs of their raised house at least 4 times a day. A bit more respect for the elderly and each other than in our white society! Yep retribution is a part of life and takes many forms, including bashings. The film showed the life of a group of people living in desperate circumstances from a vastly different culture. Don't disbelieve what the film is trying to convey, embrace it as a point of difference and learn from it.
Sorry bit of a rant but the film was great and managed to suck my wife in for the duration despite her white disbelief of the lives of the people and the living conditions.
A really good film showing the grim realities of Aboriginal life
through the 'love-story' of Samson and Delilah.
What really impressed me with the film was the fact that both lead roles were played by amateurs. Both played their characters incredibly and (hopefully) have long and successful acting careers ahead of them.
Sure, there was little dialogue between them (Samson only says one word in the whole film) but to be honest as the film went on I grew to like this. Yes, you could argue that more dialogue would have developed their characters more, but by the end I had become comfortable with it and was glad that the director had taken this approach.
The cinematography is superb and the topic both harrowing and sad.
I scored the film an 8 because the last 10 minutes is basically romantic nonsense. Really the film should have finished at the car accident, but after a film that had so little light and positiveness then I can understand that it needed the solace that the 'romantic' ending gave it.
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