Suppressed childhood memories, hallucinations, first stirrings of desire and a supernatural force to be reckoned with all compact into a film to that covers quite a combination of genres in an unconventional sense. Writing team Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt return to Norway for an unusual tale about a girl’s emotions triggering a power she never she had.
Thelma is a shy quiet girl, just moved to university in Oslo. With overbearing parents who call her everyday and seem to have little to say to her, she is stuck between becoming her own person and her loyalty to her family, especially where her faith is concerned. After meeting fellow student Anja, Thelma starts to experience strange seizures. After going through rigorous tests, it appears her seizures are not a result of a medical condition leading her to find out secrets her parents were hiding from her.
Despite how it looks or has been labeled, this is not simply a lesbian supernatural thriller, the complexities of Thelma’s past, power and emotions are separated out in a non logical way to begin with, as her character is slowly but not wholly revealed. Refreshingly, this is NOT a sexual awakening through supernatural means either. To diminish the story to this description doesn’t do the film justice.
At the start Thelma seems like any other lonely first year student who doesn’t know how to engage with others. After a traumatic public seizure, a stranger reaches out to her and with Thelma keen to see this girl again, a mutual attraction is hinted at. As Thelma makes new friends and becomes closer to Anja, we find out she was brought up a strict Christian and that her despite a rather too harsh lesson, she speaks well of her parents. But her growing attraction and her literal stirring psychosexual thoughts and desires starting to take over, Thelma’s seizures continue. Opening up to a mystery side of the story with Thelma trying to find out more about her unusual condition and why she wasn’t aware of it.
The story and even the characters are never over played or exaggerated, creating an uncertain and sometimes somber tone throughout. The horror element to the story is so subtle its difficult to decide whether is actually more supernatural thriller. Whatever the genre the film wants to be, it has uneasy flow that actually works within the story. This isn’t Thelma’s ‘how she learnt to control her powers’ movie, this is more about her accepting herself and her abilities. The unresolved end and minimal information we are presented with is slightly frustrating especially to an audience that may be used to having things explained by the end, but as this is ‘just the beginning’, Thelma’s story plays out beautifully, even through the pain and sorrow.
Dir: Joachim Trier
Prd: Thomas Robsahm
Scr: Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Cast: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Henrik Rafaelsen, Ellen Dorrit Petersen
DoP: Jakob Ihre
Music: Ola Fløttum
Running time: 116 minutes
Thelma is released in cinemas in the UK 3rd November 2017