Ironic power of music in Samson and Deliah

Ironic power of music in Samson and Deliah
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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This clip from the film Samson and Delilah demonstrates the multi-dimensional and often ironic power of music in film. The lyrics ‘Every day is going to be a sunshiny day’ from the country music classic song ironically contradict the dire but seemingly perpetual situation the film’s central character Samson (played by Rowan McNamara) finds himself in.

As Samson awakes he begins to wave his hand up and down as though holding a drumstick, keeping rhythm with the song. This drumming gesture sets up a web of rhythmic, temporal and cyclic patterns that recur throughout the film and directly relate to the film’s central themes. When Samson rises from his bed the soundtrack cleverly shifts perspective. Instead of sounding what the viewer ought to be hearing, it functions as Samson’s aurally subjective impression of the events taking place.

Samson gets up and walks outside, finding his brother’s band jamming on the porch. Although we can see the band members, we cannot hear their music — ‘Sunshiny Day’ still reigns supreme. As Samson reaches for an electric guitar resting on an amplifier, a wall of feedback noise occurs and Samson screams ‘Yeah!’ and jumps up and strums the guitar, and ‘Sunshiny Day’ miraculously attenuates to near silence. Frustrated by the disturbance, his brother snatches the guitar from him; more feedback occurs and triggers the audibility of the band’s reggae music – a simple repetitive chord progression which occurs throughout the film and symbolises boredom and monotony of the characters within the remote outback environment. These sounds do not realistically coincide with the events taking place but are instead disorientated, symbolising Samson’s petrol- induced mental disarray.

As we can appreciate, this very complex few minutes of sound not only establishes the overall mood and tone of the film, but it also speaks the voice of the story to come, initiating a series of ideas and issues that relate to the central themes  – and it does all this before the powers of image and dialogue manifest

Production company:
CAAMA Productions and Scarlett Pictures
Kath Shelper
Director and writer:
Warwick Thornton