The film Samson is based on the biblical story that is commonly referred to as Samson and Delilah. Now, Delilah had a significant role in Samson’s life, but there is so much more to his character which is demonstrated through this epic film. From birth, Samson was chosen by God to deliver Israel. God gave Samson supernatural strength to defeat the oppressive Philistine empire, but Samson had a tender heart, not the heart of a warrior. The majority of his life was spent chasing his personal desires, not the calling God placed upon him. This pull creates a grand story about self-discovery.
Throughout Samson’s life, his parents remind him of God’s calling to free his people. Samson knows what he was born to do, but he desires a simple life, therefore he spends most of his life avoiding his responsibility. He does embrace the love of his parents and they lavish their love upon him. Plus, they constantly remind him of God’s incredible love and blessing.
On the other end of the spectrum is a Prince Rallah, another influential character in Samson’s life. Unlike Samson, Rallah searches his whole life for a way to impress his father, the King, in order to receive love and approval. “What I find fascinating is here’s Prince Rallah, a guy who was born into the highest station in life, but the one thing that he wants that he can’t get is his father’s love,” Jackson Rathbone, who plays Prince Rallah, notes. “Now equate that with the situation of Samson – who is born into the lowest station in life, as a slave, but he has the ultimate highest father’s love of all – the Lord Creator.”
When Samson meets Taren, a servant of Delilah, he falls in love. On their wedding day Prince Rallah betrays the couple and kills Taren which sends Samson on a path of vengeance. It’s this tragic push that causes Samson to take his calling seriously, but he struggles to find his way. “Sometimes we are called upon by God to do something that is not in our own self-serving best interests,” Jackson Rathbone explains. “The idea is to help others.” Samson utilizes his strength, but his heart is focused on revenge. Though his intentions are not pure, God is still glorified because Samson’s supernatural strength if from the Lord.
Driven by God’s supernatural strength, Samson’s first attempt at revenge is to single-handedly kills 1,000 Philistine soldiers with a donkey’s jawbone as a weapon. “The jawbone sequence, which has to be one of the most famous action sequences in any classic story, is the one I was most excited about,” explains Taylor James, who plays the title character of Samson. “I got into acting because I wanted to emulate the stars on the screen that I had seen growing up. So, to have a chance to be part of a huge action sequence myself was wonderful. A lot of extras and a dramatic set. A helicopter camera. Smoke. So, from the selfish child within me, it was a blast.”
The violence is uncharacteristic for the young Hebrew, and his peaceful nature draws him to spend the next 20 years living peacefully. However, Prince Rallah, who is determined to take the throne from his father and destroy Samson, enlists Delilah to find the source of Samson’s strength, so he can have it for his own. In the film, Delilah is portrayed as a woman bound to Rallah, and forced to deceive Samson in order to help her master destroy his enemy. “Delilah is sort of stuck between two men. She comes from the world of Rallah, and she’s indebted to him, and he constantly reminds her of that. And so, he manipulates her and he’s very violent towards her. But at the same time, he puts her in her place and she feels like she has to do whatever he says. When Delilah actually meets Samson, she starts falling for him. But Rallah keeps coming back and reminding her that that’s not the world she belongs in,” says Caitlin Leahy. A lot of people see Delilah as a one-dimensional temptress, but the movie portrays an alternative demonstrating that there’s always more to a story than what we see on the surface. “When you really break down the true person of who Delilah was, she’s a very complicated character. There is a lot to explore with Delilah that women and Christians can relate to,” says Producer Brittany Yost.
At first, Samson resists divulging his secret to Delilah. But soon he can’t resist the charms of the beautiful temptress. He tells her the secret to his power. He is captured and blinded by his enemies. While in prison, Samson looks to God. Here we see the result of an age-old question. What happens when we don’t follow God’s path for our life? The answer is two-fold. First, we must pay the consequences. Second, God is a loving and merciful God and He will redeem us for our actions. God returns Samson’s strength and leads him into victory.
While working on this film, the producers strived to make every detail correct. Learning about, researching and studying the history of the context brought the cast and crew closer together. In doing so, everyone realized how relevant and applicable the Bible is, especially today, thousands of years after the tale of Samson. “The Bible is living and breathing. The Bible is constantly alive,” Producer Brittany Yost explains. “So even this story from 1170 B.C. is a story that we can relate to. Maybe not in the context of a man with superhuman strength running around and killing 1,000 men in battle. But we do identify with the part of Samson that just wanted peace. We do identify with his struggles of following the call of God.”
Lindsay Wagner, who plays Samson’s mother, Zealphonis, agrees by saying, “I don’t think stories about faith are ever not going to be relevant. We’re always going to be challenged as human beings to step into [a situation] that seems difficult or impossible. We’re always going to experience uncertainty and need to work our way through it.” Wagner continues, “Samson was given the power to be physically superior but struggles because he had a heart for peace. That’s a very uncomfortable thing.”
Not only is all scripture relevant, it is also applicable to people living in our current society. “In Samson there is a huge lesson to be learned for all audiences,” Taylor James says. “Loss. Greed. Discipline. Faith. Fear. Lust. And, yes, redemption. I see key emotions in this film that every member of my family or friends has had to face in their lives. This kind of storytelling, it’s why I do acting, or art. And storytelling goes back to folklore, mythology, where people used to paint stories on the walls. You would warn or advise or guide or counsel your younger generations through other people’s journeys, other people’s stories, other people’s plights.” Samson steps fully into his calling, acknowledging that it took him far too long to get there. “I tried but I failed,” he says in one of the most emotional scenes in the film. “I am done failing.”