Thursday, October 5, 2017

Repressed No More

Thelma (2017) - Trier
Joachim Trier's new offering starts out rather ominously - Norwegian Liam Neeson named Trond (Henrik Rafaelson) goes out hunting with his young daughter Thelma in the snowy woods. But when they spot a deer, unbeknownst to the little girl, Liam Neeson dad aims his rifle at her. The tension builds up, but at the end, he can't do it. So we know, there must be something terribly wrong with our Thelma.

Now Thelma is a mousy, good Christian girl attending college in the city. Except for unusually nosy parents, seen calling everyday to check on her, She leads a very normal life as a Freshman at college. There are little vices around at every corner - the boys, alcohol and weed, the usual stuff. She has to fend off these temptations with daily prayers and atone her sinful thoughts. Thelma has an episode of a violent seizure at the school library. She doesn't remember having one when she was growing up and fear of being called back home, she hides the fact from her parents. This episode introduces her to Anja (Kaya Wilkins), a dark beauty who came first to her aid. They fast become friends.

Weird things are happening around Thelma. Her dreams have become more vivid and she can't distinguish if they are hallucinations or her will to make happen. As she falls deeply in love with Anja, her seizure episodes also increases. Through the remnants of her medical history, she finds out that her conditions might be hereditary and her parents have been hiding things from her.

Trier and his writing partner Eskil Vogt wrote a beautiful script once again, this time applying their skill and grace to their first genre film - a Sci-fi thriller. But Thelma is much more than that. Instead of going the route of a typical teen superhero flick, Trier and Vogt portray being an adolescent in its truest form - frightening sexuality: massive confusion where you can't trust your feelings nor your body and the terror of being in love for the first time. Added here is a big middle finger to organized religion, combined with some show-stopping imagery that trier has ever created in his short but fruitful filmography- especially the snake scene and the underwater pool/lake scenes.

Eili Harboe does a phenomenal job as a supremely confused young woman whose power has been repressed for so long. She gives achingly vulnerable performance as Thelma.

Thelma is first and foremost, a love story. It will make a handsome double feature with The Witch as a kind of female empowerment anthem. But instead of being cynical, something to fear and gaze at, girrrl power in Thelma is a sweet, positive and dare I say, life affirming affair.

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