Magazine article Screen International

'Thelma': Toronto Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Thelma': Toronto Review

Article excerpt

Joachim Trier tries his hand at a supernatural thriller, with overt nods to De Palma and Stephen King

Dir. Joachim Trier. Norway/Sweden/France/Denmark. 2017. 116mins

A sheltered, sexually repressed young woman discovers she has startling telekinetic powers: the plot description of Thelma could just as easily apply to Carrie, and Joachim Trier’s new film knowingly echoes that fright-night classic, settling into its own odd rhythms while never quite escaping its predecessor’s mighty influence. Partly intriguing because it represents a conscious change of pace for the director of Reprise and Oslo, August 31st, this chilly existential horror movie judiciously spaces out its elegant shocks. And even if Trier doesn’t have much new to say about oppressive religious belief, childhood trauma or the terror of adolescent hormones, Thelma’s sustained, muted uneasiness gives this genre exercise sufficient gusto.

Thelma boasts an almost clinical tone, which gives the occasional fantastical moment a queasy strangeness

Thelma will be distributed in the US through the Orchard, which previously released Trier’s 2015 English-language debut Louder Than Bombs, and has sold widely through Memento on the strength of the director’s name, given it boasts scant star-power. Eili Harboe plays Thelma, who moves from the country (and her protective parents, played by Henrik Rafaelsen and Ellen Dorrit Petersen) to Oslo for university, only to find herself intimidated by the big city and her more outgoing, confident peers.

Befriending the beautiful Anja (Kaya Wilkins), Thelma quickly realises that her classmate has romantic feelings for her - a revelation that upsets this devout Christian. But a series of epileptic seizures soon take hold of Thelma, which seem inexplicably connected to a newfound ability to control nearby events with her mind.

Thelma boasts an almost clinical tone, which gives the occasional fantastical moment a queasy strangeness. Trier and regular cinematographer Jakob Ihre present a realistic world, emphasising the frigid landscape around the young woman’s rustic home and the sleek interiors of her school and the hospital where she is examined. …

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