How do the elements of ‘belonging’ and ‘return’ operate in Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider? Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider are two films which deal with the conflict that can occur between tradition and modernity at the hand of colonization. In both of these films, within this conflict, the elements of belonging and return are dealt with. Samson, Delilah and Peaks all have a yearning to belong to their communities, families and culture, yet find themselves on the outer for various reasons.
All three characters commence a Journey of return to their respective traditions, which results in a sense a sense of belonging for them.
Through violence, challenging and connecting with Indigenous tradition, use of dialogue and visual techniques, Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider demonstrates the importance of belonging and the role that return can have on that. Samson and Delilah is a slow-paced, repetitive film which examines the realities of a Postcolonial word for Australian Indigenous communities through the eyes of Samson and Delilah.
This film is essentially a Journey of discovery for Samson and Delilah, who try to find a place where they both belong after being rejected by their respective families.
This rejection and subsequent search to belong is highlighted by OTOH violence and silence. Firstly, the acts of violence in this film are all catalysts for these two characters to move onto new phases of their lives. The violence inflicted upon them from their family members led them to escape to Alice Springs, the abduction of Delilah led to her dabbling in petrol sniffing as a way of escape, and finally the car accident which involved Delilah led her to returning to her land, and brought Samson out of his drug induced reality.
The violence inflicted upon Samson and Delilah symbolisms the fact that these two characters had not yet found a place in which they belonged. Secondly, the silence in this film is a most deafening feature. There is very little dialogue, and when it is spoken it is in the Warrior language, or is spoken by a supporting character, such as Gone. This lack of dialogue represents the vivaciousness of these characters and goes hand in hand with the acts of violence which are inflicted upon them.
They have no voice, they are treated unfairly, and this film is a record of their Journey to find a place in which they both belong. Whale Rider also explores the notion of belonging and its importance in ensuring happiness and identity in one’s world. Peaks is longing to belong to the world in which her grandfather, Koru, lives. However, she is a female, and this has broken the long tradition of chiefs in her community, and Koru blames her existence for the long running misfortunes that the family and community have experienced.
Despite this, Peaks continues to seek acceptance and belonging in this culture, however her continual push for this leads to more exclusion. Like Samson and Delilah, this film is about Peak’s search for belonging in a community which is confronted with the conflict between tradition and modernization. The opening scene of this film greets TTS viewer in a calm, dark and still ocean, with the deep music imitating the sounds of images of a birth interrupt the images of the deep sea. This is the birth of Peaks and her twin brother, who dies at birth along with their mother.
Immediately, this film contrasts the traditional myths of the Maori community, and the modern reality of Peak’s life. We know that the family that Peaks should have had is lost, and this will somehow be impacted by the traditional myths of her people. This opening scene foreshadows the challenges that will be faced by its characters during the film. The changes brought on by colonization have impacted the way in which these traditional communities operate. Through its resistance to change, particularly that of Peak’s Pack, Peaks will continue to feel excluded from the family that she has.
As with element of belonging, the act of return is central to the film Samson and Delilah. The violence, conflict and self-harm that is inflicted upon both Samson and Delilah is only resolved once Delilah takes Samson back to her land. This symbol of the land is central to the Indigenous Australian culture, and Delilah act of taking Samson to her land in order to care for him demonstrates that these characters can only be themselves and gain a sense of belonging when they are living with the land. The home they make is in the middle of a vast and empty landscape.
They have no contact with the outside world; no white fell’s taking advantage of them, no family members beating them, and no strangers abusing them. This point is made clear by the composition of the shots in the film. The vastness and emptiness is only emphasized by the small house in which they live place upon the horizon many kilometers away. It is finally, at this final point of the film, that there are physical signs of Samson and Delilah happiness. Samson laughs as he listens to the radio and Delilah smiles as she settles in to her role of homemaker and caretaker.
This symbol of the land is a symbol of the Indigenous tradition. Here they are less influenced by the Postcolonial world and the modernity that was suffocating their old community. This act of returning is not simply an act of returning to a location, but it is an act of returning to a spirituality and a tradition. In order to belong, Samson and Delilah had to return to the place and culture of their people. Similarly, Whale Rider also interacts with the concept of returning in order to belong.
The conflict between tradition and modernity ensured a troublesome future for Peaks, especially due to her Papa’s refusal to embrace change. It was this change, however, which allowed for Peaks, her family, and the whole community return to the traditional life which they all embraced and craved. Therefore, Whale Rider interacts with return in a different way to Samson and Delilah. In order for Peaks to belong, there needed to be an acceptance of modernity and change in order for the community to return to their traditional ways. The rope scene is a poignant example of this relationship.
Here, Koru is trying to fix a broken motor with a piece of rope, whilst simultaneously using the rope to explain the heritage and history of their people. This symbolism demonstrates the relationship and conflict between history and modernity. Koru breaks the rope when trying to fix the motor with it. However, Peaks fixes the rope, and gets the motor starting. This symbolisms that when used together, Peaks could allow modernity and tradition could work. When this emergence is played out in the film, and Peaks is accepted as the new chief despite ere gender, a bright, traditional and happy cultural event closes the film.
Whale Rider belonging. In order for Peaks to feel a sense of belonging, change needed to occur in the relationship between modernity and tradition. By changing this relationship, the community could return to a rich and fruitful traditional life, and embrace the new female chief, Peaks. Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider both discuss the necessity of belonging and how it is often the act of returning to a certain place, spirituality or act of tradition which can often result in this sense of security and belonging.
Samson, Delilah and Peak’s lack of belonging is highlighted by violence, silence and a defiance of tradition. It is an act of return which eventually leads all of these characters to find a place in which they belong. Samson and Delilah return too land which is rich in their tradition, and similarly, Peaks returns to tradition in a way that embraces change and modernity. Both of these films demonstrate the ways in which colonialism has resulted in these characters lack of belonging, and it is only by their return to tradition that brings them to a final sense of belonging and happiness.