Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Review: Samson and Delilah (2009)

Great films, really great films are hard to come by. Really great films produced in Australia are even harder to come by--lately.

It is thankful then when lyrical and beautiful films like Samson and Delilah are produced.
The words 'lyrical and beautiful' have to be taken with a grain of salt, though, because this film does cover some gritty issues that aren't glossed over nor should they be.

The film centres around two rural young Aboriginals, Samson and Delilah (played with realism and pathos by new-comers Rowan McNamara and Marissa Gibson). Their lives are fairly routine and very little changes during the first five or so days in which we encounter them. Then tragedy strikes Delilah when her grandmother passes away. Perhaps needing a change from their lives, Samson and Delilah move off to the city. There they find that they are just as isolated as they are at home. They struggle for food, find shelter underneath a bridge, endure hostile treatment from others and take salvage in petrol and in each other.

Some of the scenes are hard to watch because they're so confronting. Oftentimes you want to pretend that Indigenous issues don't exist. Very often one can go day to day and not think of such issues or care about them. The film depicts this and shows people--white people--looking down on Samson and Delilah and trying to shoo them away from their guarded society. Watching the film you find yourself despising these people, but then wondering if you're just like them. It can be unsettling. Such is the power of this film.

Warwick Thornton directed, wrote and photographed this film and he did a premier job at that. Although at times the film seemed initially slow-moving and so very quiet, but then the action and the emotions build up. The film gradually gains hold of your complete attention and then doesn't leave it until the credits roll. Before you know it, these characters and their plight are so important to you that whatever happens to them is going to deeply affect you.

The cinematography is beautiful. Thornton's camera captures beautiful sunsets and silhouettes. The rural area that Samson and Delilah live in looks simultaneously harsh and beautiful, depending on the scene. The camera also captures great close-ups of both characters, acting as a window to their feelings.

The end scene is one of the finest I've seen. In spite of all the brutality and despondency of before, Samson and Delilah give each other looks of hope and belief. I guess one of the film's ultimate message is that love, support and connection can be stronger than anything that goes against it.

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