Sunday, December 20, 2009
Samson and Delilah ***
Director: Warwick Thornton
Cast: Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson
Mitjili Napanangka Gibson, Scott Thornton, Matthew Gibson
Samson (McNamara) and Delilah (M. Gibson) are aboriginal teenagers living somewhere in Central Australia.
Their town is the kind of place that defines middle-of-nowhere; a main street, a couple of houses, a clinic on a trailer, a payphone and inhabitants stuck in a routine that repeats itself every day.
Delilah lives with her grandmother (M.N. Gibson) who makes art which is later sold in the great cities. Samson sleeps and inhales petrol fumes most of the day and has a crush on Delilah.
He follows her around town trying to gain her attention while she ignores him.
But they have something in common: every night Samson blasts his radio using his brother's (M. Gibson) amplifier, while Delilah shuts herself in the community car where she listens to a tape of Mexican band music (how an Ana Gabriel tape ended in the middle of the Australian desert is one of the film's most charming mysteries).
Their connection through music gives us a clue of the next turn the movie takes, as tragedy strikes them and they run off together looking for better luck in the city.
This trip isn't some sort of walkabout or metaphorical rite of passage, with it instead the director begins to present us with opposing statements that will engage in fascinating dichotomy.
Thornton makes the most out of images and sounds to create an unorthodox film. There is almost no dialogue, but with things like ambient sound we are informed of all we need to know.
He uses these elements to create a feeling of otherworldliness that enchants while reminding us that it's difficult to unite two worlds.
Not only Samson and Delilah's (who at first he makes out to be a refreshing romance) but also ours from the people we're watching.
The cultural differences offer the kind of richness that make us ponder on how much might be an ancient tradition and how much is screenplay invention.
Thornton's naturalistic approach gives the film the kind of accessibility we would expect from an anthropological documentary without the emotional urgency from Bresson.
Everything in "Samson and Delilah" is set to clash with each other, there's the nature of their names and the fact that they still seem to linger on ancient spiritual traditions.
The fact that it's a movie about aboriginal people that doesn't accuse the rest of Australians for any issue; it's a movie embedded with codes we are more than willing to invest our time in.
Like one of the tapestries made by Delilah's grandma, this movie is beautiful to behold because of its apparent simplicity, but looking closer there's such an intricate level of detail and interconnectivity that we are never quite sure of what we just watched.