May 27, 2009

Samson And Delilah

Firstly. See. This. Film. Not only is this a great film, but it is a great Australian film. Required viewing for all Australians, I do believe. It is a moving and profound exploration of a young relationship set amongst a background of desolation and despair. Shot with great imagination and beauty, many of the scenes will linger with you for days afterwards.

Samson And Delilah is the first full length feature from writer-director Warwick Thornton, himself a native of the Northern Territory where the film takes place. The film begins in an small Aboriginal community somewhere in the Territory outback. Samson (Rowan McNamara) is a bored teenager who sniffs petrol and not much else. He appears to be parentless, certainly directionless. He likes to play some heavy guitar when he can pry an instrument away from the older men that play in a small ensemble. Delilah (Marissa Gibson) is a thoughtful young girl who cares for her grandmother, who spends her time making her dot artwork. It would appear that Samson has a subtle crush on Delilah, who flatly denies any interest in a boy that seems all too frivolous for her. But a chain of events, somewhat violent, leads the two youngsters to flee the community and head for Alice Springs. On their own, they endure many hardships and travails, finding it hard to adjust to the white man's world. Whilst all the time the spectre of petrol sniffing hangs heavily over them. Especially as the plot is minimal I don't want to give too much more away. Suffice to say there are some pretty heavy and draining scenes, but there is also a ray of hope at the conclusion of this vital story.

There are three elements that make this film an essential experience. Firstly, the cinematography is masterful. Although shot on a small budget, there are many scenes of surreal beauty, reflecting the myriad of colours of the Australian outback. Many shots are beautifully framed too, accentuating the movement of the characters. Secondly, the film is realistic to the extreme. There is no absolutely no cliche or sentiment on display here. It is painfully truthful. Thirdly, you will care deeply about the characters. From the outset I found myself totally invested in the plight of the characters on screen. I might add that this is a film with minimal dialogue. It works beautifully in creating scenes of tenderness and desolation, but is also the film's only real flaw. I wish that I knew a bit more of the character's background. The whys and hows. I guess it's a trade off, but I just wanted to have a few of the gaps filled in. Although untrained, the two young leads do a fine job. Gibson excellently portrays the tender qualities of Delilah, whilst McNamara is charismatic as the lost soul Samson. This is easily a landmark Australian film. Important for many reasons, I hope it receives a large audience.

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