Tuesday, September 04, 2007

viff07: samson and delilah

Samson and Delilah
Netherlands, 2007, 100 min, Sony HD Cam
International Premiere

Directed By: Corina van Eijk
MUS: Saint-Saëns
Cast: Charles Alves da Cruz, Klara Uleman, Peter Michailov, Murad Amirkhanian, Vincent Le Texier

This radical reinterpretation of the celebrated Saint-Saëns' opera is a splendid example of cinema offering many things that the stage cannot. Ingenious ideas abound, from the political sparks of the contemporary setting to the sensational use of the simplest of décor to the very entertaining use the singers make of the freedom cinema allows for facial expression.

Billed as “a brazen and lascivious film version about war and love and the whole range of human weaknesses they entail,” the film lets you know you're in for something different right from the start. The setting is Gaza in Palestine, and the soldiers wear uniforms that are very like those worn in today’s Middle East. This is, of course, an Old Testament story of the struggle of the Israelites against the Philistines, and the effectiveness of the glorious score comes not only from its French melodies, but also from its successful Orientalist use of Hebrew chants and tonalities.

Samson may be a hero to his people and a noble soul, but he's a sucker for a pretty face and when Delilah and her handmaidens (bedecked in outfits that would make Cher proud) come calling, Samson (the mellifluously hunky Charles Alves da Cruz) quickly throws off his prayer shawl. Klara Uleman is unforgettable in her steamy turn as the carnally inclined temptress who tricks the strong man into a haircut.

Since 1989, Opera Spanga has been producing opera and opera films in its own idiosyncratic way in the hamlet of Spanga (Friesland) under the direction of Corina van Eijk. World premiered on stage only this summer, their production of Samson and Delilah has now begun its tour on the silver screen. Bravo!!!

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