Thelma is a fantasy/ drama film by Joachim Trier, for which he goes back to his roots. His last film Louder Than Bombs (2015) was English, where Thelma is Norwegian again, with a Norwegian cast. The film won the Norwegian Film Critics Award, because it “excels in its distinctly Scandinavion motifs” according to the jury.
Joachim Trier’s new feature film tells the story of a young girl going by the name Thelma (Eili Harboe), who grew up in a conservative Christian family and who moves from the countryside to the big city to go to university. As a kid she had a ‘nervous breakdown’, which she seems to have under control now, until she meets Anja (Kaya Wilkins).
After some seizures, Thelma decides to get herself examined. The medical examinations point out that she suffers from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, which means that her attacks are not neurotic, but psychological. In addition to that, she can make people disappear according to her willing.
The whole film is dominated by a dark, sinister and cold atmosphere, which is typical for Scandinavian cinema, at times the film’s light is seemingly clinical. Therefore, Trier is one of those talented directors who belongs in our history books on the same page as Thomas Vinterberg (Jagten (2012)), Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)), Ruben Östlund (The Square (2017)) and Lars Von Trier (Melancholia (2011)). Trier manages to visualise the symbolism in his film by the use of perspectives and mise-en-scène. So for example, the opening and closing shots, which portray Thelma in the crowd to point at the fact that she tries and succeeds to fit in with normal people despite her ‘powers’. To conclude, the narrative and visual style are in perfect balance and well-considered.
Thelma’s supernatural powers add a horror-/fantasy-aspect to the film, although I definitely consider Thelma a drama with a touch of coming-of-age. Normally, I’m not into fantasy films, especially the supernatural can’t tempt me. But what convinced me to like this film is that all acting performances are modest and most credible. Trier shows us normal human relationships involving the fear of losing control, of letting go and the fear of an uncontrollable desire for someone, which makes the whole much easier to identify with.
Thelma will be released in Belgium in November 2017.