THELMA – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Thelma is the official Norwegian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. For that reason alone, I sat down to watch it with high expectations. Visually, I got what I expected. Thelma is shot with tension in mind. The wide open shots in nature are grey overcast scenes and the interior shots have a sense of space even when they are supposed to be just between two people. When you’re watching this film the director makes you feel like there’s always something just beyond the edge of the picture that’s waiting to jump into frame and get you. The problem is nothing ever does. So, in directorial promise, I felt robbed of a big reveal. Don’t get me wrong there’s an explanation at the end of the film that ties up all the problems Thelma gets to deal with. But instead of being like the classic 1976 horror film Carrie about another sheltered young woman with mental powers that ends in a bloody mess, this film goes more into the ethics of great power and it’s place amongst us mere mortals.
This film follows an odd girl named Thelma (Grethe Eltervag) who since childhood was able to make things happen with her mind somehow. If she really desired something, she could make it happen; often times it was something bad. Once she grows up, we see her just starting in college. It’s her first time away from home where she’s been raised in a super strict Christian home. She has trouble making friends and fitting in because she doesn’t drink or party. In her lonely state she meets Anja (Kaya Wilkins), the beautiful brunette that she fixates on and falls in love with. That’s the problem, since Thelma desires her, she unwittingly starts to control Anja and makes her want to be with her. This creates great shame in Thelma over wanting to be with a woman instead of a man. All this desire goes against her strict religious upbringing. She rebels and starts to party and drink with the kids at school but loses control of herself at a party and it plunges her into contrition and more self loathing. I don’t what to give anything away, but look for a party scene that is mind blowing with its imagery of desire as sin and a serpent closing in on her and entering her soul through her mouth. I wish the rest of the film had been this cool.
During this rebellious time, Thelma also starts to have convulsive seizures that correspond with her powers coming to the surface.
The rest of the film deals with the politics of sex, faith, belonging, and a god like power contained in one girl.
There are a lot of people that love this film; I am not one of them. I didn’t hate it, but would have loved it to go beyond just the cerebral issues of ultimate power and get their hands dirty with more scenes of her causing people great harm than they did. For that reason I give it a C+ rating.
Directed by Joachim Trier
Selig Rating C+
Running Time 1hr 56min
Foreign / Drama/ Mystery
Limited Release Angelika Film Center
Starring: Eili Harboe, Frethe Eltervag, Kaya Wilkins, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.