***I’m currently sat in the bar of the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh waiting to see “Sweet Country”, the latest film from Warwick Thornton. This is my review of his 2010 movie “Samson and Delilah” which was originally posted on myfilms2010***
Can you remember the last time you had some fast food?
If you’re anything like me (at least when I was still eating meat) you probably got quite excited by the prospect of a Big Mac, or the equivalent, and you may well have felt that rush of adrenalin as you prepared to tuck in to something that your mind had convinced you was going to be really tasty. In your heart you knew it was a load of processed, mass produced rubbish but still…
Do you remember how hungry you were about an hour later? That hunk of meat, the cheese, the onions, the fries, the coke…all distant memories and in their place a gnawing desire for something more filling, something more real.
Compare that with how you felt the last time your mum made you a Sunday lunch or a Christmas dinner. Did you feel satisfied and full? I would wager that you were so full that you didn’t feel the need for anything else to eat for the rest of the day. You may even have needed a lie down afterwards to properly digest what you had eaten.
The basic ingredients were probably the same…some meat, some potatoes, some sugar, some fats, some vegetables. So what’s the difference? It’s all about the quality isn’t it? Well, no, it’s not…I think it’s more than that. I think it’s about the knowledge you have about the person who prepared the meal for you. At a fast food “joint” it’s been pre-prepared in some far away place by someone you don’t know and who doesn’t know you. It’s food made by strangers for strangers. There’s no real commitment on the part of those people to you…they don’t care if you’re satisfied at the end of your meal. They’ve packed their food with drugs; high levels of caffeine and sugars to convince you to come back. At home the meal has been prepared with the best available ingredients by someone who loves you and wants you to be satisfied.
Unlike the James Camerons of the world who rely on tricks and treats to try and convince you that what you are watching on the big screen is worth something you know that he doesn’t care about anything other than repeat business…and you know that an hour after that sort of film is finished you’ll be hungry for something more substantial…Warwick Thornton is a director who makes films the same way that your mum made a meal. He wants you to be satisfied at the end and he wants you to need time to properly digest it. He uses the best ingredients…real actors, beautiful imagery, story and love to provide you with something real and substantial.
“Samson and Delilah” is Thorntons first feature film and he has made one of the best films of the year. In fact, to hell with it, he has made one of the best films of any year. It is a beautiful film in every way. Visually and sonically it grabs you from the opening shot and then never lets you go. I cannot remember the last time I saw a film that left me reeling at its end and that kept me sitting in my seat right through until the end of the credits. It is a unique and startling piece of film.
The story is a simple one; Samson and Delilah are two thirteen year old Aboriginal kids living in an isolated community in the Central Australian desert. Samson is already addicted to solvent abuse and Delilah is dedicated to caring for her nana, Kitty. When Kitty passes away and Samson assaults another villager the two of them set off for the city where living on the streets, shoplifting and more solvent abuse become their world.
There is precious little dialogue in this film and what there is could easily pass you by. Instead the story is told through a series of beautiful shots, stunning scenery and powerful imagery. The fact that there is so little dialogue makes the fact that you are unable to take your eyes from the screen even more impressive. Sound is a vital component of this film though, Thornton personally selected every piece of music that is heard and there are many instances where sound is crucial to what is happening on the screen.
The use of religious imagery stretches way beyond the biblical names of the characters. Crucifixes, churches, sacrifice, fire, water, desert, journeys and more all feature again and again but they are used to highlight the fact that in a world where there is povery and a lack of hope salvation is needed but seems to be completely absent.
Does it sound like I am gushing?
I hope so. This is a film that matters. It’s a film that leaves you totally satisfied. If I didn’t ever see another film again I’d be really pleased that this was my last, I’d feel that I had finished my film watching life on a real high. When the awards come around I doubt that “Samson and Delilah” will feature but it is already the film to beat for me this year and I am sure that anyone else who sees it will agree.
Warwick Thornton…a director who cares about you in a way that the Hollywood hamburger film-makers never could.