Thelma is the latest film by Norweigan director Joachim Trier, following his English-speaking film Louder Than Bombs. He’s back to his Norweigan roots, this time with Eili Harboe as his lead as Thelma, a uniquely powerful woman who is slowly coming to realize who she really is.
Right from the beginning, we see a big scale as we watch a young Thelma and her father walk across a frozen lake that eventually becomes meaningful as the film progresses. In an extremely dark moment, we see her father aim his gun at a deer before turning it to his daughter. It is a sure way of showing the darkness the film will eventually have.
When Thelma grows of age, she leaves her religious household to go to Oslo for college, it allows her to try and become her own person, to find out whoever that may be. She has constant conversations with her parents at home, as they check in with her nightly.
We always start seeing Thelma from afar, we are detached. It’s almost voyeuristic, except sometimes it questions what we are watching. One scene has her saying bye to her parents before she walks out of frame, and we are left zooming in on the woods, as it looms over them. It’s always there in the background overpowering it all.
One day as Thelma is studying, Anja (another student, played by Kaya Wilkins) sits next to her, and soon after, Thelma has a seizure which causes birds to fly into the window. It’s here we get a proper sense of the supernatural of the film. We are unsure of what powers Thelma may have, but we see what she might be capable of doing.
The film occasionally jumps back to show more of her family life and what brought it back, and while on paper it might ruin the flow of the film, it adds to it, it brings more into the storyline and helps you understand both Thelma, and her parents more.
Elli Harboe is a moderately new actress, only having a few credits to her name as of writing this, and while I haven’t seen her other films yet (The Wave being one of them). She gives a powerful and vulnerable performance of a woman who is slowly trying to become and find herself while finding out about some of the secrets in her family. Thelma leaves an art performance and as she walks out of the building, the camera is glued to her as we are to the film. Unable to look away, but we are so enticed by what is happening on film, that we never want it to. As the film was coming to a close, I rather wish it didn’t.
By the end, we see who Thelma is capable of becoming, and that in of itself is mesmerizing. To see someone in control of who they are, referring to discovering yourself, or some unknown powers in this story, it’s lovely to see her be happy. It’s a reminder for us to be true to ourselves. Attempt to not harm people, but to attempt compassion in tough times, but to be happy.