BOLD NEW WORLDS:
SAMSON AND DELILAH and the New Australian Cinema
SAMSON AND DELILAH *****
Mark my words: Warwick Thornton’s debut feature, SAMSON AND DELILAH, will win the Camera D’Or (for Best Debut Feature) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It will also make, as a per-screen average, more money than any other Australian film this year, and possibly more money per screen than any movie this year (released into Australian cinemas).
This extraordinary film, about the most marginalised of subjects (petrol-sniffing amongst Australian Indigenous youth) has gripped the Australian public imagination. How do I know this? I just saw a packed 12:15pm Sunday session; as I came out the line for the 2:15pm session went out onto the street, and the afternoon sessions were already sold out. SOLD OUT. This is a sign of a true cultural phenomenon.
Now, granted, the cinema I was at was the Dendy at Newtown, which would have to be the most leftist intellectual cinema in the country (per “capita”, or head). But this is the type of cinema where this film is playing, and that is partially why it will be such a per-screen success.
Why else, however? Well, the advance reviews have been spectacular, with Australia’s two most visible film critics, David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, doing the unthinkable and both giving the film five stars out of five on their nationally televised At The Movies. Likewise, in The Australian, Mr. Stratton gave the film the line “one of the finest films ever made in Australia”.
But what else makes a small, marginal film like this – a film with nothing approaching a star, about subject matter most people recoil from, shot on a tiny budget – a hit? WOM. Word of mouth. And why will this movie have WOM in spades? Easy. Heart. This film has heart to burn. It is a portrait of love every bit as tender as ROMEO AND JULIET – the Shakespeare version, the text. It has so much to say about why people love each other – and says it with so few words (there is barely any dialogue in the entire movie) – that people will not be able to contain themselves from saying to their friends, “Yes, it’s bleak. But it’s magnificent. Go.”
SAMSON AND DELILAH is magnificent. Go.