Oftentimes, what is less speaks more. No dialogues, except when necessary. A small and novice cast. A rural setting, with scarce landscape and small neighborhood. However, it speaks a universal theme that touches everyone’s heart – love. And with this complicated journey towards true love and new life, Samson and Delilah takes us into a story that will urge us to reassess the things we value and cared about.
Samson and Delilah is a 2009 Australian film directed by Warwick Thornton. It tells the love story of two 14-year-olds who live in an Aboriginal community near Alice Springs. The movie opens by relaying to the audience the daily routines of these two teens. For Samson, they include living in a run-down shelter with his brother’s band playing reggae music all day, sniffing petrol every morning, and being interested with Delilah, following her around and throwing rocks at her. For Delilah, these rituals include taking care of her ill grandmother, wheeling her to the local health clinic, and helping her produce the folk art canvasses.
Here, the movie introduces us to two distinct cultural practices of indigenous people in Australia: huffing and printing. Huffing is inhaling of chemicals (in the movie, it is petrol or gasoline) for hallucinogenic effect. This has become a long-faced problem in impoverished Aboriginal communities in Australia, particularly in the youths. For Samson, the effects would include dancing on high with his brother’s music. On the brighter side, printing or creating art posters using paints has become a source of living for many Aborigines. In the movie, however, white dealers exploit the native by buying these arts at a cheap price and selling them at gallery shops with a huge mark-up.
In the beginning, Delilah is shown as having no interest with Samson. As Samson is persistent with his courtship, Delilah begins to fall for him and she is seen at one point secretly watching Samson from inside a car while the other was dancing half-naked. Pivotal events soon take place in the sleepy community. Samson is hit and beaten by his brother after one of his mad fits. The same happened to Delilah; the whole community beats her with sticks as she is blamed for the death of her grandmother, supposedly because of her neglect. Samson comes to the rescue, and after stealing the community’s car, they head into Alice Springs where they lived under a bridge with a homeless man.
However, living in the urban town has become a harder challenge for these two lovers. Desperate, Samson gets more addicted to huffing. Penniless, Delilah turns to painting arts only to be repeatedly turned down. Worse, she is raped and bashed by a gang of white teenagers. Even worse, she is later hit by a car. With Delilah nowhere in sight, Samson believes she is dead and succumbs more to his addiction. But Delilah comes back and rescues him, and they are both brought back to their old village.
Because they had stolen the community’s only car, the women beats Samson, driving the couple away. Samson and Delilah eventually finds a new home in a secluded area, away from the village that won’t receive them back, and farther away from the city that won’t accept them.
Director Thornton has done a ground-breaking filmmaking with Samson and Delilah, employing the art of minimalism to convey some powerful messages. As addictive as huffing, the movie hooks our interest throughout, taking us into an unfamiliar culture, into a way of life so distant and obscure and comic, yet touching and enlightening. As intricate as the art pieces, the movie develops the character in such delicate and decisive manner, using fewer dialogues and exchanges. Throughout the film, the two have not actually spoken directly to each other. And with having less and fewer cast, settings or sounds, the movie enables us to see more of the beautiful portrait of life and its struggle to survive, and that there are no challenges to hard to beat if we stick together.
Samson and Delilah is mostly positively reviewed. As of February 2014, it garnered a rating of 94% at Rotten Tomatoes and 7.1/10 at IMDb.
Rating: Five stars out of five for Samson and Delilah. It’s a very sad film, yet it’s refreshing, a beautiful adaptation of themes exploited by mainstream movies.