[Review] Thelma (2017)
Thelma – A confused, young religious student leaves her small town and religious family to study at a university in Oslo, but once on campus, she experiences what appears to be a violent, unexpected seizure. Overwhelmed by the increasing intensity of the mystifying episodes and her powerful feelings toward a beautiful classmate, Thelma has to struggle with her suppressed subconsciously-controlled psychokinetic powers so they don’t reemerge with devastating results.
Thelma is a 2017 thriller/mystery film released in Norway and directed by Joachim Trier. The film is Trier’s fourth full-feature length effort that he also wrote the screenplay for. The film revolves around Thelma, who grew up in a religious household and is now a young adult preparing to go off and attend college away from home. When she leaves her sheltered home life, she is met with a world full of new and exciting experiences, and attractions.
Thelma is very shy and doesn’t know how to talk to anyone at college. One day as she sits beside another female student, she starts shaking and crows begin to crash into the windows. The girls soon become friends and have taken a liking to each other beyond friendship. Thelma has the power to attract that which she most desires. Soon she begins having feelings for Anja (with Anja showing feelings back), while her powers start to spiral out of control, and having horrifying nightmares and weird visions.
It soon becomes clear later in the film from her father explains things to her, after she returns home from a series of odd events on campus, “There’s something within you. If you truly desire something, with body and mind, there’s something within you that can make it happen.” It’s now that we fully learn that Anja never really had any choice in the matter. It’s also very likely that Anjas first and last voluntary movements with Thelma were when she said “Hello” upon first sitting next to her in the library.
The movie goes brilliantly beyond issues of sexuality, religion and the metaphysical and leaves you hovering, painfully over the issue of consent. Would Anja have chosen Thelma on her own if she could? What awaits for Thelma with such power, how does she control it? Can she even control it?
Thelma is incredibly intriguing and a brilliant depiction of a struggle not everyone will suffer through, but a struggle that everyone should acknowledge not only exists, one that will wreak havoc on many fragile, wavering souls hoping to be themselves without condemnation and isolation. If you are, know, love or care about anyone in the LBGTQ community, and, frankly, especially if you don’t, you should see this movie and open your mind to understanding their experience. When you choose a film that leaves more questions than answers, you chose well.
This thrilling, deep, complex and sensual film explores a whole realm of different theories and possibilities. I was surprised and delighted by its twists and turns. It crosses borders between reality and fantasy, and light and darkness, and explores the good and bad in human nature. The actors are amazing, especially Eili Harboe as Thelma and Kaya Wilkins as Anja. It is fantastic to discover that the roots of psychogenic disorders go back as far as Joan of Arc.
Seen at the Toronto International Film Festival. Everyone who loves dark films and stories with a haunting atmosphere, good performances, and beautiful photography should not miss this one. A highly recommended film, and another that came very close to getting a 4-star rating out of me.
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Drama
Studio: Passion River Films
Starring: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Henrik Rafaelsen, Ellen Dorrit Petersen
MPAA Rated: NR
Directors: Joachim Trier
Reviewed by: Mad Hatter
Our Rating: 3.8 /5
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