Sunday, May 3, 2009

Samson & Delilah - the verdict

I caught a preview screening last night at Nova of the much-anticipated Warwick Thornton film Samson & Delilah and am having trouble trying to put into words my reaction. This film is so tragically beautiful - it's narrative flows effortlessly with barely a word spoken. The audience is drawn into the world of these two young companions and travels their journey for an hour and a half. The use of silence is sometimes overwhelming as you become aware of your chest heaving because you haven't taken a breath for several moments. It is beautiful. It is dark and sorrowful and sad and joyous and brilliant and timely.

A few observations;
The use of the names Samson and Delilah, the myth of the hero who's strength is taken when his hair is cut is very intelligent. Besides the cutting of hair being a part of the narrative, it reminds us that all humans are the same. Historians have found that in cultures across the earth from Europe to Africa to Asia there have been remarkable similarities in the creation myths of each ancient culture, and in the archetypal story telling of even the remotest communities of the world. We look different, we sound different - but humanity makes us the same.

The beauty of silence reiterates that language is not a barrier - something that white Australia might have trouble believing - after all, language is a good excuse to not engage with another culture. It is much easier to walk with the teenagers and to relate to them when they are stripped bare of anything but emotion.

But who am I really walking with in this film? I became drawn into the sorrow of Delilah and the frustration of Samson but ultimately, and something that was shoved in my face with a particularly poignant series of scenes in Alice Springs - I am the white middle-class person who really knows nothing of the struggles and third-world conditions that indigenous Australians suffer.

This film made me want to slap myself in the face. It made me feel guilty for whingeing about not having central heating. It made me feel pathetic for dropping out of my first attempt at uni because it was too hard. It made me feel stupid for not asking more questions about what is happening in my own country and for not realising that this is how our indigenous population - the people who thrived for thousands of years on this wide brown land before British settlement - now have to struggle. It made me ashamed that I have wasted opportunities that others have not been given because I was lazy.

Every Australian needs to see this film - it should be compulsory in schools, it should be given its own public holiday.

It is a heart-aching slap in the face and I want to scream it from the rooftops.

Please. See. This. Film.


  1. You echoed my sentiments exactly in your review. I agree that everyone should see it!

  2. Thanks Will - everyone I speak to have similar reactions. I was shocked to see one comment on the IMDB page that was nit-picking about Delilah's haircut and continuity issues - obviously missed the whole point!