Posted by: greercn | May 17, 2010

Samson and Delilah

This is a rare and elegiac film, cramming many ideas into its big heart.  Little and Australian, this movie creeps up on you and stakes its claim on your emotions with a quiet, deliberate and controlled pace. Unashamed of its depiction of poverty and unafraid of Biblical parallels, it nudges its audience into challenging its preconceptions and then stuns the viewer with its vision.

You are about as far away from the Hollywood blockbuster as you can be. Desolate outback is the background and you will fidget a little, in the early scenes. Samson (Rowan MacNamara) loves Delilah (Marissa Gibson) but they are both Aboriginals living hand-to-mouth existences within their families. 

They are not Brad and Angelina and this is not “Walkabout”. Yet your eyes do not shift from either of the young stars. One of the many selling points of this story is the sheer authority of both leads who will find Hollywood knocking on their doors all too soon.

Bad stuff happens. Death and tragedy are staples of many film plots, but they still have the power to shock when handled with as much raw emotion as is portrayed here. Violence is also here in great dollops, but it is integral to the plot.

I loved Warwick Thornton’s short films “Nana” and “Green Bush” and was looking forward to this, his first feature. Expecting to be charmed, and to finally find a real heart and true warmth in a movie, I did not expect to be so knocked out by the concepts and the thoughts. He is a distinctive and visionary creature and I would travel great distances to see anything he chooses to make.

On the other hand, it was terribly convenient to go to the Stratford Picture House and see this, as it is a refreshing ten-minute brisk walk from my home. It was a disappointingly small audience. But – oh boy – was it quiet and everybody was completely riveted to their seats. My eyes stayed on the screen, for all 101 minutes, even when it was painful to watch. It is not an easy film, but it is rewarding on every level.

Mitjili Gibson as Nana reprises her role from Thornton’s short film of the character’s name. The original art featured is hers and has taken director Thornton and his producer Kath Shelgar to their next project, which is about Australian Aboriginal art. She has wonderful presence. Are all the Gibsons in this film related? The Thorntons certainly are.

Scott Thornton is Gonzo, a homeless man who befriends Samson and Delilah. Yes, he is Warwick’s brother but he earns his unusual character part and relishes every moment.

Roland Galois is the film’s editor and plays a gallery owner in a distinctive vignette. Daran Fulham designs the production with a true artist’s eye which includes some fantastic landscapes.

The band, in real life, is The Desert Mulga Band. No, I never heard of them before this yet Matthew Gibson, Gregwyn Gibson and Steven Brown prove themselves as actors. The music enhances the plot.

Dignity and love are the main commodities of this excellent ensemble piece. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation should take lots of credit for making something so very different to the norm. See it. It will stay in your mind and heart for a long time to come.

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