Samson and Delilah

Year: 2009
Production Co: Scarlett Pictures
Director: Warwick Thornton
Producer: Kath Shelper
Writer: Warwick Thornton
Cast: Rowan McNamara, Marissa Gibson

This is the Australian manifestation of the famous William Goldman dictum that when it comes to the movies, 'nobody knows anything'.

It came out about the same time as the far more crowd-pleasing Two Fists, One Heart, and six months prior if you'd asked industry watchers which one would have caught on, many would have backed the one one with the boxer who learns to love his Dad while getting out from under his long shadow instead of the one about two aboriginal kids on the skids.

Like recent Australian efforts The Black Balloon, Samson and Delilah seems to have that particular Australian cinematic quality of having been made for social workers instead of audiences.

In fact if you liked Two Fists you'll be tempted to believe the entire country got it wrong in wholeheartedly ignoring it in favour of Samson and Delilah, which cleaned up and has made its way all the way to Cannes and the Oscars.

With so little dialogue the movie's almost self conscious about wanting to be near-silent, Samson and Delilah live in an outback community, Samson causing trouble and sniffing petrol while Delilah cares for her ill grandmother.

Samson starts hanging around, apparently having decided he likes her (he throws rocks at her and everything), and when Delilah's grandmother dies the pair silently agree to pair up and make their way for the city, stealing cars and provisions to get there, and doing little but leading miserable lives sleeping under a bridge when they arrive.

It effectively shows the lot of the indigenous impoverished in some shocking scenes such as when a gang of kids pull over and drag Delilah into their car to bash and presumably rape her over the course of several days, Samson so out of his head he doesn't even notice as he ambles a few feet ahead.

It's a progressive film with the view that people can't help their circumstances or upbringing, and more than once you'll be wishing for a bit of conservative balance to ask that these two kids take some responsibility for their actions.

In one scene a security guard tails Samson around a supermarket, apparently inviting us to consider that having been born black, many people consider him inherently untrustworthy. But the kicker is that he does in fact shoplift from the store, giving the security guard and the audience grounding for their collective fears.

It's a hard slog but worth seeing simply because it's part of Australian cinema history where so many others have failed.

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