If you’re looking for something a bit more involving than the usual horror/thriller, then Thelma could be just the film you’re looking for.
Initially unassuming, but immediately intriguing, this Norweigian production revolves around a young woman that has left a sheltered, rural, Christian upbriging to start university in a city.
As she’s introduced to new situations and people, she struggles to adapt in a world seemingly full of sin. She seems alienated and reliess on the support of her over-protective parents to remain grounded and focus on her studies.
To begin with, it seems that Thelma’s parents are too concerned about their daughters welfare, constantly tracking her movements and monitoring her activities and behaviour. And for this reason, early on it’s easy to assume that this film is going to be more about the effects of psychological abuse and the tricks ones mind can play when subjected to it.
But as supernatural events take place, the boundaries between thought and reality fade and Thelma heads more in the direction of being a possession movie – if one had to categorise it as they watched. Thankfully though, it’s far more than just that.
Being a film nerd, some might mistake me for being the sort of person that enjoys exploring the hidden meanings and underlying contexts to movies. But though I have read books about ‘reading films’ and so on, I usually feel that over-analysing like this a tad pretentious. It can get in the way of the fun. To begin with Thelma plays like a film theorist’s dream. The use of composition to emphasise Thelma’s feeling of insignificance; the long lingering shots of mundane things that give it the lustre of an art house feature… And to begin with these things nearly turned me off, as, well that’s not really my bag.
But that element of intrigue is strong enough to pull you through the areas of uncertainty that border on pretentiousness and boy, am I glad it did. By following Thelma to its conclusion you’ll find that Thelma is a gem of a movie, and definitely a consideration for the best foreign language horror films of 2018.
There’s a brooding beauty about it all, enclosed in the perpetual darkness/twilight of the Nordic surroundings. The bleak, minimalist sorroundings are the perfect context for a story about a girl who leads a very simple life, but still struggles to find the most basic of things – contentment.
The film retains in a state of tension throughout, the use of imagery and some clever editing gives the viewer the impression that they are in a pressurise container of sorts – perfectly reflecting the feelings of turmoil and confusion that Thelma herself is feeling as she grapples with her emotions, health and sanity.
The cast is solid, but Eili Harboe (Thelma) and Henrick Rafaelson (her father, Trond) stand out and are largley responsible for Thelma’s magnetic appeal. Harboe excudes innocence and fragility while Rafaleson embodies the dark, threatening role of protector well, his stern face hiding years of pain.
The best thing about Thelma is that it fully places you in the lead’s position. You long to understand what is going on as she does, and as she struggles to find meaning and work out where this journey will lead, so do you. And the outcome is quite unexpected.
We discovered this great movie using MUBI, the streaming movie service.