Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

Samson and Delilah

Warwick Thornton's first full length film, Samson and Delilah, is a quiet, understated piece about young love and the lives of Aboriginal teenagers in a small, central Australian town.

It is a political film. To me, it is primarily a political film. A lot is said about the romance between the two teenage protagonists (Samson and Delilah, obviously), but as I sat there, watching the opening scene where Samson wakes up, reaches over, and begins the take with an intake of petrol (or paint), it was hard for me to move beyond that initial statement. We're not talking love here, the film says, at that moment, we're talking life, existence, a world that continues to exist right now. The conversation continues as silence that surrounds Samson fills the film--his plight and life need another to speak for him, which in this case is Thornton--and the empty, yet routine days that both he and Delilah find themselves in. The political discourse continues when you begin to pick apart the film even more: Samson acquires a wheelchair early in the film that he rolls around on for amusement, and there is, within that, a statement about the crippled life that he leads. The wheelchair reoccurs, too, when Delilah's Nana, elderly and sick, must be taken on a second wheelchair to a clinic every day to be checked. And the wheelchair reoccurs again, at the end of the film, too, a rickety, old thing to convey the crippled lives that cannot be left behind.

I write that last line, knowing, to a degree that it sounds as if it is condemning the Aboriginal life that Thornton portrays in the film; but, without having him here to say yes or no as to it being his intention, the life that he does show is one that is crippled. The community Samson and Delilah live in is run down, aimless, a place so isolated and removed from society that the people living in it are lied too and stolen from. The community itself, in turn, is at times violent and unsympathetic, the frustration of the people in it struggling to find a way to voice itself positively. It is in response to that behaviour that Samson and Delilah leave the community, and head into the larger world, where they find a predominately white community that distrusts them, views them as criminals, objects, and where theft and low grade, ugly drugs are the only things that are available to them for a life. It's hard to watch the scenes where Delilah, in an attempt to make money, tries to sell a painting to a group of white men and women in a cafe: painfully shy, she moves from table to table, only to be dismissed with hand wave, or a shake of the head, her work ignored, her presence brushed away while they eat and live. When she returns, angry now, having become a victim to the world, her new painting is ignored, her more aggressive manner rejected until, finally, she is told that she has to leave. There is no place, the film says, for you here: you're either ignored due to your politeness and shyness, or you're told to fuck off because your anger and frustration bothers people.

To me, it is a political film, and I dug it on that level. It's neither preachy, nor angry, but rather honest and, to a degree, hopeless. There are no solutions in Thornton's film to the issues he present and the community the two leave ultimately becomes like a safe haven in response to the rejection they receive in the city.

Seeded within this, of course, is the love story that most people have written about. It's wordless and awkward, but there's an honesty between the two actors, and you hope for them to find an ounce of happiness by the end of the film, which may seem strange in the empty and silent landscape that they exist in.

Anyhow, it's pretty cool. Worth time to go and see.

(crossposted)
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