Thelma Review

Thelma - Poster #1

Genre films isn’t typically the type of film one would see at the Academy Awards.  Not to mention the lack of success genre films have had at the Oscars. At the same time, they tend to appear more in the Foreign Language category. Thelma is trying to be one of those films. But is Norway’s submission for the 2018 Foreign Language Oscar a good one?

Well, like most abstract art house films, it all depends on your interpretation. On the surface, Thelma is a beautifully shot film strengthened by its solid cast.

Thelma follows the young college student in Norway. When she gets a seizure, she inadvertently becomes friends with a girl named Anja. However, as her feelings for Anja grows, so does her mysterious supernatural powers…

Thelma - Eilie Harboe and Kaya Wilkins

Although foreign art house films are an acquired taste, Thelma keeps things interesting with its  mystery and visuals. The first thing to remember is that Thelma is a very European film. Like other European art house directors, Joachim Trier implements a slow burn approach to the film. Whether it’s a visceral or dramatic reason, Trier takes his time developing certain scenes. So if you’re the type of audience member that bores easily then this isn’t the film for you. Also, if you aren’t a fan of art house film then this film won’t change your mind either.

These long takes isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’ll make you appreciate Jakob Ihre’s cinematography. Norway is an incredibly beautiful place and Ihre captures the beauty of the urban and wilderness areas. Not to mention the cinematography enhances some of the film’s striking supernatural scenes.

But what’s interesting is how Trier shows restraint when tackling surreal scenes. Some European directors would take these scenes and go up to eleven. However, Trier subdues these scenes by making it truthful yet dreamlike. As a result, the film is unsettling as it is beautiful. Just watch out for those epileptic scenes.

Thelma - Eilie Harboe

As good as the visuals are, it’s the mystery of Thelma’s powers that keeps the film intriguing throughout. Essentially, the exploration of her powers coincides with her self-discovery. In many ways, it’s very similar to Stephen King’s Carrie. As you begin to uncover the secret of her powers, some audience members will certainly relate with its themes. Ultimately, her journey is a painful allegory that’s sadly universal.

Unfortunately, once the filmmakers reveal the mystery then the film loses much of its momentum. The film begins to become quite predictable. To put it another way, you’ll be able to predict the ending once the film reaches its final act.

Thelma wouldn’t be what it is without the phenomenal performance by Eilie Harboe. Harboe conveys a wide array of emotions on top of her physical performance. The role requires her to convulse and look like she’s having a seizure. Needless to say, she has all those elements down. Even though the supporting cast is solid overall, this is essentially Harboe’s film.

Overall, Thelma is a strong character study disguised as a supernatural thriller. Yet the film is so abstract and metaphorical that it’ll certainly divide its viewers. While it’s not as shocking as Raw or mainstream like Carrie, Thelma impresses nonetheless. On the other hand, the film never does live up to the potential of its hypnotic opening scene.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

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