Struggles of Belonging and Return in Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider

Discussing the themes of 'belonging' and 'return' in Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider reveals how these two films explore the struggles between tradition and modernity during times of colonization. Samson, Delilah, and Peaks each feel a deep desire to belong to their communities, families, and culture, but face challenges that keep them feeling alienated. Their journeys back to their traditions ultimately lead them to a sense of belonging and acceptance.

Both Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider utilize violence, challenging Indigenous tradition, dialogue, and visual techniques to highlight the significance of belonging and the transformative effects of returning to one's roots.

Samson and Delilah is a deliberate, repetitive exploration of the postcolonial struggles faced by Australian Indigenous communities, as seen through the experiences of its titular characters. The film serves as a poignant journey for Samson and Delilah as they search for acceptance and a sense of belonging after being ostracized by their families.

The theme of rejection and the quest for belonging is emphasized through OTOH violence and silence.

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The acts of violence portrayed in the film serve as turning points for the characters. The violence from their families pushes them to flee to Alice Springs, Delilah's abduction leads her to experiment with petrol sniffing as a means of escapism, and a car accident involving Delilah prompts her to return to her roots, guiding Samson out of his drug-induced haze.

The violence suffered by Samson and Delilah symbolizes their lack of belonging. The film's deafening silence, with minimal dialogue in the Warrior language or spoken by characters like Gone, mirrors the vitality of the characters and the violence they endure.

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Through Whale Rider, we witness the struggle of those who have been silenced and mistreated, following their journey to a place where they are accepted. The film delves into the theme of belonging and its impact on one's happiness and sense of self. Keisha is eager to belong in her grandfather Koru's world, but as a female, she disrupts the longstanding tradition of male chiefs in her community. Koru holds her responsible for the misfortunes that have plagued their family and community.

Despite her ongoing efforts to find acceptance and belonging in the culture, Peaks faces more exclusion. In a similar vein to Samson and Delilah, the film explores Peaks' quest for connection in a community torn between tradition and modernity. The opening scene immerses the viewer in a serene, dark ocean, set to deep, haunting music that mirrors the imagery of birth intertwined with the depths of the sea. This marks the beginning of Peaks’ story, alongside her twin brother who tragically passes away along with their mother.

In the film, the contrast between the traditional myths of the Maori community and the modern reality of Peak's life is immediately evident. The loss of the family that Peaks should have had will be influenced by the traditional myths of her people. This sets the stage for the challenges that the characters will face throughout the film. The impact of colonization has changed the way traditional communities function, and Peaks will struggle to fit in with her Pack due to their resistance to change.

Return is a central theme in the film Samson and Delilah, just like the sense of belonging. The resolution of violence, conflict, and self-harm for Samson and Delilah occurs when Delilah brings Samson back to her homeland. This act signifies the importance of land in Indigenous Australian culture, as their true selves and sense of belonging can only be found when they are living on the land. Their home is situated in the midst of a vast and barren landscape.

The isolation of Samson and Delilah is evident in their lack of contact with the outside world: there are no white fell's taking advantage of them, no family members beating them, and no strangers abusing them. This isolation is emphasized in the film through the composition of shots, with the vastness and emptiness of their surroundings only accentuated by the small house they live in, placed on the horizon many kilometers away. In the final scenes of the film, physical signs of happiness emerge for Samson and Delilah. Samson laughs while listening to the radio, and Delilah smiles as she settles into her roles as homemaker and caretaker.

This symbol of the land represents the Indigenous tradition, untouched by the influences of the Postcolonial world and suffocating modernity. Returning to this land is not just a physical act, but a spiritual and traditional one as well. Samson and Delilah, as well as Whale Rider, must return to their roots and culture in order to truly belong.

Peaks' future was troubled by the conflict between tradition and modernity, primarily because her Papa resisted change. Despite this, embracing change ultimately led Peaks, her family, and their community back to the traditional life they longed for. Unlike Samson and Delilah, Whale Rider approaches the theme of return differently. Peaks needed to accept modernity and change in order for the community to revert to their traditional ways, as demonstrated in the poignant rope scene.

Koru uses a piece of rope to fix a broken motor and also to share the heritage of their people. This act symbolizes the struggle between tradition and modernity. Despite breaking the rope while trying to fix the motor, Peaks is able to repair it and start the motor, symbolizing the harmony between tradition and modernity. In the film, Peaks becomes the new chief regardless of their gender, leading to a joyous cultural celebration that marks a blend of tradition and modernity.

Whale Rider emphasizes the importance of belonging, highlighting how the relationship between modernity and tradition must change for Peaks to feel a sense of belonging. By altering this dynamic, the community can rediscover a fulfilling traditional life and accept Peaks as the new female chief. Both Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider explore the significance of belonging, noting that reconnecting with a specific place, spirituality, or tradition can often lead to a feeling of comfort and security.

Samson, Delilah and Peak all experience a lack of belonging, as shown through violence, silence, and a defiance of tradition. Their return to their roots ultimately helps them find a sense of belonging. Samson and Delilah come back to a land rich in tradition, while Peaks embraces tradition in a way that combines change and modernity. These films highlight how colonialism has contributed to their feelings of not fitting in, and it is only by returning to tradition that they finally find happiness and a place where they belong.

Updated: Feb 21, 2024
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Struggles of Belonging and Return in Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider. (2018, Oct 24). Retrieved from

Struggles of Belonging and Return in Samson and Delilah and Whale Rider essay
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