Sunday, May 30, 2010

Samson and Delilah

Samson and Delilah is an Australian film about two teenagers, who fall in love, and struggle together for survival. It stars Rowan Mc Namara and Marissa Gibson.

Two 14-year-old Aboriginal teenagers, Samson and Delilah live in a remote village, leading simple lives. Samson eyes Delilah, and constantly follows her. Although Delilah at first doesn’t fancy him, she finds herself staring at him when she sees him dance one night. With absolutely no verbal communication, he manages to get close to her once her grandmother dies, as he’s the only other person she knows around. They run away together in a stolen car. They never talk to each other.

The city is harsh. They find it difficult to survive, carrying nothing with them - no house to live in, no food to eat. They rely on a homeless man to give them food sometimes. We see instances where they care for each other. They work as a team when they need to steal from a supermarket. Delilah kisses him on the cheek to say thankyou out of affection. They only have each other.

The movie moves at almost zero talk between the two main characters. They look at each other, understand and live. Samson is addicted to the habit of sniffing petrol. It’s his only means of relaxation, a way to escape from what’s happening around him. Once they flee to the city, he gets so addicted that he can’t hear anything around him. He loses sense of sounds and actions. This detachment from the world happens to such an extent that he fails to notice when Delilah gets hit by a vehicle while she is walking behind him, or she gets picked up by three men in a car only to be raped later. The silence at those moments is deafening. It hits you like a thunderbolt.

What struck me the most about the movie is the haunting honesty with which the Director has shown the lives of the aborigines. With a lack of education, and a crude upbringing, we see how the two struggle to get food, and overcome day-to-day challenges of survival which is at its most difficult level for them in the city. They are looked as aliens from another planet, with great suspicion. What saddened me is that Australia with its rich culture from the Aboriginal community is used only to promote the country in terms of its arts and heritage. When Delilah buys chart paper and paints designs taught by her grandmother to sell it, she is completely ignored. When she steps into one of the stores that sell Aboriginal art, she is rudely sent back. Why do we “civilized” people live in such a farce? We open shops trying to use the works of the tribals to paint a pretty picture of the country and attract prospective buyers, but how many of us really care about them?

The film also brings out the traditions followed by the aborigines. Delilah cuts her hair after she discovers her grandmother dead. Samson does the same after he thinks he’s lost Delilah when she disappears.

Violence is part of their lives. Delilah is beaten up and accused for not taking care of her grandmother. She has no voice against her elders. Samson is beaten up by his own brother in retaliation to his assault of one of the band members who play outside his house. They get beaten up, get hurt and continue living. The film puts it simply. They accept it as a part of their lives.

When Samson and Delilah go to the city, they are treated no differently either. There may be no overt violence, but very open hostility from the city bred residents when they see them. Ironic, how the director has managed to show two sides of human hatred. On one side it’s brutal and physical, almost animal-like where emotions are laid bare with minimal verbal communication. On the other hand we see well-dressed, well-off people who may talk more and be more “literate”, nevertheless equally less inviting with hateful gestures and inconsiderate behaviour.

The music is rustic, and mostly in the background of what is playing in the village. The film is unhurried with its pace and takes us through brilliant visuals. The cinematography deserves special mention. The characters of Samson and Delilah steal the film’s thunder with perfect performances.

The name of the film, although seems to be disconnected to the Biblical characters, to me has a connection. In the film, Samson, unlike what legend has it, has no magical power or strength, but his strength lies in his desire for Delilah and how he goes about attaining her. She is a strong young women who knows how to go about life and follows Samson cautiously in the beginning, and then trusts him completely.

Love is a subject of debate. Because the two young people get entangled in the struggle for survival, sometimes we are not sure if they are capable of the emotions. They stick together, but some scenes with its stark brutality left me wondering. Do they have an option? They ended up together in the city, but their end once they reach there is to fend for themselves. Samson is devoid of feeling, especially when he gets lost in his world of sniffing. Delilah too, she returns everytime she disappears, but that’s because where else and who else will she go to? It’s more like a situation of wanting someone and also not having a better option to settle for something else. Hence, calling it a “love story” needs to be strongly contended.

Watch it for its numbing scenes, visual treat, honesty, innocence and hope. Hope to live and beat all the odds.


  1. I was indeed pleasantly surprised by the stark realism of this movie. Samson and Delilah, after winning the Golden Camera award at Cannes, received much love here in Australia among critics - but sadly, the movie appealed primarily to the arthouse crowd. I still remember recommending this movie to several Australian friends and colleagues who would otherwise may have never heard of it.

    It's ironic that in this century, Australia, one of the most developed countries in the world still has many of its indigeneous population living in absolute squalor with no access to education, employment, running water, essential food, etc - things many of us take for granted. Australia has the highest suicide numbers among teenage boys in the world - all belonging to the native community. Of course Australia has come a long way from its White Australia immigration abolishing discriminatory land laws, apologising to the Stolen Generation (which continues to hold much contention that not much has been done since), and moving towards one of the most diverse populations in the world. I highly recommend reading John Pilger's 'A Secret Country' - a must read to understand the complexities of a continent grwing out of its imperialist colonial past and into a multi-cultural modern nation.

    I still recall when I had visited Cairnes with some friends for an action-packed week of sky-diving, scuba diving, white-water rafting, etc. After a fun-filled day, we were walking through a park to get to the Esplanade for some dinner along the beach, and we caught sight of a group of aboroginal families huddled under a tree, staring at us. We - being new the country and not wanting any trouble, and also since it was already quite dark - rushed ahead to the beach, completely ignoring them. What would they have been thinking? Lost in their own country? Is that where they lived, in that open park? Did they just happen to wander in into the city? Difficult questions that we just can't sweep under the carpet anymore.

    Getting back to the movie, I loved the subtlety with which Warwick Thornton - an Amorogine himself - treats his characters, the story, the atmosphere, the social issues, and the repetition of some scenes to emphasise the dreary and tedious monotony of the lives of Samson and Delilah. Thornton is definitely one to look out for. There is a short 'Making of' doco for this film which gives you a splendid insight into the film - from the amusing auditons for the roles to the intricacies of making such a difficult film.

    And the best part of the movie is that the story refused to finish with a bleak and hopleless ending. It ends with optimism, a promising hope based on each other's love for a better future. I was glad Warwick chose to end the film this way.

    Similar great Aussie films? The Proposition, Walkabout, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Ten Canoes, Bran Nue Day (a light-hearted musical), The Tracker, Rabbit-Proof Fence...

  2. Thankyou for your insightful comments!

    Yes, sadly many are not aware of this movie and with the brilliance with which it has been executed, I wish the movie had more publicity to a larger audience because what Samson and Delilah shows is universal to an extent of portraying the lives of indigenous people who belong to their country more than any of us "modern" people. In its stark visuals and sound, you are exposed to something you may never imagine especially living in a country that seems so different to the rest of the world.

    Could you please explain "apologising to the Stolen Generation?"

    Your experience at Cairnes is an eye-opener to the situation of the aborigines in a developed country. I am happy that you had the conscience to at least think about their state of mind, although you couldn't have done anything more than that at that moment. You feel quite helpless don't you? What do we do about it? What do they do about it? IT seems to be a debatable contention.

    I would love to watch the making doco, and see what exactly it took to make a magnificent movie like this. Yes, there is hope in the end, and I loved the optimism with which Warwick treated the circumstance. Love does come to the rescue to life's difficult times..:)

    Thanks for suggesting similar Aussie films. I had a good start to the country's movie world and look forward to see more such films.

  3. to be more realistic, sometimes, I repeat sometimes, the movie makers rather like to emotionalize scenes to get a sympathetic acceptance of the characters; I do think sceptically if the modernized decency of Australian gentlemen in cities are that bad to aborigines in their behavior towards them. I would expect some feeler attitude towards aborigines by city dwellers and come forward to help them if they needed.

    Like in most films made early in India, you see two extreme ends of people - that some too good to be realistic and some bad enough to be unrealistic.

    I believe majority of people are good and a very few are villains; even among villains, if you touch their positive side, they turn good. Hope you approach with this attitude before swallowing as it is, whatever depicted in movies.

  4. @ Hamza: Let me ask you one question. How many people on an average do you see helping a beggar on the street or even acknowledging them? Or how many willingly would approach someone on the on the streets and lend a helping hand?

    Yes, you are right in saying that majority of people are good at heart, at least human. But when certain lifestyles and comfort levels are established in a society, the "haves" manifest their behaviour in more aloof ways from the "have-nots" simply because there is division of resources. But who is to blame here, as who has stolen from whom? And what are the corrective measures taken by those who have encroached on an aborigine's living space? So the issue is not about how many are innately good or not, but about how many hold true to their human side and realize the plight of the original and more rightful owners of the land.

  5. to pin to the point: please research on the rehabilitation programs conducted by govt of Australia and NGOs, see how many had benefited out of it, how many had embraced a decent life thru ages, and how many had chose not to change. Talking about beggars, my own experience is that it is not people donot turn to help them, rather they chose to continue the way they live by. The real problem lies elsewhere.

  6. To quote my professor Mr. Ajit Duara, who read this blog post,"the historical and cultural blunder the Australians made was their policy of separating parents from children in the aboriginal community. Children were sent to white families for adoption, in an attempt to integrate the community with white Australians. It only ended up destroying their identity and way of life. The present Australian PM apologised in parliament, a couple of years ago, for that policy of mindless cruelty and racism".

    So, we see how "rehabilitation" programs by the Government have also failed because essentially the identities of the natives have been brutally stripped off. Who is at fault here? Our "civilized" policy makers(!)

  7. far-sightedness is a pre-requisit in any govt policies... we can analyze results and change course of action.

  8. Yes, change seems to be the only hope.