Monday, 23 November 2009

Review: Samson & Delilah, dir Warwick Thornton (2009)

The film builds pace slowly and there is little dialogue to alleviate our puzzlement as Samson (Rowan MacNamara) and Delilah (Marissa Gibson) negotiate to secure a private space in a hostile world. Samson, especially, seems almost pre-verbal in his capacity to communicate with those around him.

People are poor not just because of how little they earn but because they are discriminated against and deprived, because they live in insecurity and are marginalised and excluded, and because their voices are not heard.

So says Irene Khan, secretary-general of Amnesty International, addressing the National Press Club in Canberra last week.

Khan's piece is published online for those wanting to read it in its entirety.

In the film, Samson and Delilah are a young man and a young woman living in an outback settlement, in poverty. They are forced out of the settlement by adversity, in Delilah's case due to no failing of her own. They hit the road and land under a bridge in Alice Springs.

Samson, at one point is asked his name by a vagrant they cohabit the place with. "Sa ... sa ... sn" he says, forcing out the words against their will. Cut off from his community, he is rendered mute.

When walking down a street, a car stops and Delilah is accosted by two men, who force her into the car. His mind muddled by the petrol he sniffs as he walks, Samson doesn't hear a thing. In any case, Delilah doesn't cry out. Cut off from her community she, too, is rendered mute.

The two young people love each other but do not verbalise their feelings in a way that enables us to latch onto them, and share them, easily and readily. We are filled with unease, and we are perhaps not yet ready to face the implications of the problems the film presents to us.

It is only through glances, brief moments of physical contact, and the sobbing we hear as Samson sits, alone, beneath the concrete, that we appreciate the strength of feeling present in the relationship.

Thornton has done an extraordinary thing in making such a silent pair appealing. He has given a voice to those who are so marginalised as to be almost invisible, except in the form of disturbing headlines. It is time that we come to terms with this entrenched marginality. The movie can only help us to do this.

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