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Having just enrolled at a university in Oslo against her stern parents' will, the sheltered Biology freshman and devout Christian, Thelma, leaves for the first time the isolated Norwegian countryside, to start a new life away from home. Tangibly lonely, a casual conversation and one unexpected friendship with the beautiful fellow student, Anja, will broaden Thelma's hazy horizons; however, as the glacially alluring misfit wrestles with an onslaught of novel feelings, little by little, an unprecedented psychosomatic manifestation of repressed emotions start to take over. Indeed, a mystery cloaks soft-spoken Thelma's past, and the more she struggles to renounce her nebulous desire, the more violent becomes her quivering awakening. Can Thelma unearth a denied truth behind the stinging temptation?Written by
"I know there's something wrong with me", but what exactly?
"Thelma" (2017 release from Norway; 116 min.) brings the story of university student Thelma. As the movie opens, we see young Thelma and her dad walking in the snowy woods, and when they encounter a deer, dad aims his riffle first at the deer, then.... at Thelma. Whoa! We then go to today, as Thelma, just entering university in Oslo, has a difficult time finding her way. Then one day, as she is in the library/study hall, Thelma suffers a seizure. Following that incident, Anja, another student, reaches out to Thelma to see if she's okay. At this point we are 10 min. into the movie but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest from Norwegian writer-director director Joachim Trier, who previously gave us the excellent "Louder Than Bombs" (2015) and before that the even better "Oslo, August 31st" (2011). Here he goes a very different direction. Trier brings us Thelma, an 18 yr. old who grew up in a very conservative/religious/rural setting but now finds freedom in the big city and, while feeling guilty about it, is nevertheless quite eager to explore this newly found freedom. The movie is paced quite slowly, and I mean that as a compliment, as Trier takes his time to explore and provide full characters. After the first seizure, Thelma gets scared and confesses "I know there's something wrong with me", but what exactly? And what causes thee seizures? All is revealed in the second hour of the movie... I shan't say more! Eili Harboe is outstanding in the title role, and I can only imagine that she will soon be making her debut in US movies. In fact, I could easily see how "Thelma" is one of those movies that Hollywood wants to remake--Hollywood style of course. Let's hope I am dead wrong on this one. "Thelma" is 180 degrees away from Hollywood mainstream, and it should stay that way,
"Thelma" opened without any fanfare or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend, and seeing that this was directed by Joachim Trier was good enough for me to check it out. So glad I did. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so at best (6 people including myself), and that leads me to think this won't play long in the theater... If you are in the mood for a top-notch foreign psychological drama with hints of the supernatural, I readily recommend that you check out "Thelma", be it in the theater (while you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Thelma" is a WINNER.
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