Two new films portray communities so minute, so insular and so far removed from ours, they may as well be science fiction.
While not documentaries, “Samson & Delilah” and “Of Gods and Men” focus on groups that are nonetheless real: Australian Aborigines and French monks, respectively.
Either way, you can’t get further from “Scream 4” this weekend. Hope you like subtitles.
Playing Thursday through Sunday at Oklahoma Museum of Art, 415 Couch, “Samson & Delilah” is neither a remake of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1949 epic, nor biblical in nature. This Cannes Film Festival honoree depicts the dull, dreary life among dwellers of the Central Australian desert.
Not much happens in the movie, at least initially, which I suppose is entirely the point. When he’s not huffing gasoline, teenage Samson
(Rowan McNamara) ambles about his surroundings — empty fridge, dirty water, hard floors, merciless sun — and listens to music and screws around in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, his sorta-kinda girlfriend, Delilah (Marissa Gibson), forced to act older than she is, cares for her ailing Nana (Mitjili Gibson).
Thirty-four minutes in, Samson decides he’s had enough, and his actions force his exit from the village; Delilah, cutting off her hair as if shedding her skin, accompanies him as they journey toward the big, bad city. Someone has to — Samson isn’t letting go of his ever-present, cut-in-half plastic bottle of fuel, whose fumes he constantly inhales to escape.
Writer/director Warwick Thornton brings more than a decade’s worth of documentary work to his feature debut, and it shows. The viewer is made to feel the despair and bleakness of his characters’ have-nothing lives, and the leads’ inexperience at acting makes it seem all the more real.
The same can be said for another Cannes winner, “Of Gods and Men,” a French film opening Friday at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, 2501 W Memorial. Writer/director Xavier Beauvois nails — or so I assume — the lifelong commitment of Trappist monks who live a day-in-day-out life defined by ritual.
They go about their business of prayer and humanitarian work in a dirt-poor Algerian community, but find their rigid schedule upturned by the arrival of armed, radical Muslims, who invade their monastery and cluelessly demand, “Where’s the pope?” From there, the fact-based “Of Gods” is all about fleeing or fighting — in the monks’ case, fighting simply means staying put and having faith that God will work things out ... even if fundamentalist terrorists aren’t known for being open to negotiating peace.
So many parallels can be drawn between these two pictures, not the least of which are the challenges they present to audiences. I can’t say I enjoyed either — in fact, “Of Gods” lulled me into a state of numbness — but pieces may haunt you long after their ends — one tragic, one hopeful — are reached.