Thelma Screen 9 articles

Thelma

2017

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  • The entire back half of Trier’s film feels like a constantly replaying scene, a locked cycle of action that ultimately reduces all of Thelma’s personal relationships to their most thematically bare relevance. Too much of the film feels like a school thesis, not the work of a major emerging filmmaker just hitting his stride, and a predictable finale ends things on a trite, obvious note that seems worlds away from the heart-stoppingly evocative opening that’s so lush with mystery and promise.

  • Not every European auteur has a genre film in them, and while Thelma is a bit too weird to be an absolute disaster, it will most likely be remembered as a speedbump along Joachim Trier's upward trajectory. Most of the trouble comes from the fact that Trier and writing partner Eskil Vogt can't decide what sort of film they want Thelma to be. Honestly, if I read somewhere that the two of them wrote the script during some sort of "exquisite corpse" experiment, I would not be entirely surprised.

  • When Trier allows his thriller elements to freely bleed into his austere aesthetic—as in eerie long shots of biblical animals slithering and swooping into scenes where they don’t appear to belong and voyeuristic bird’s eye-view tableaus that locate Thelma from above as if from a creepy supernatural handler’s telescope—Thelma is scary and potent stuff, its methodical pacing at last feeling mesmerizing rather than slack.

  • The suspense in the film, for those who come to it cold, comes partly from the discovery of what sort of a film it is, as much as from what is going to happen or be revealed. When the conclusion arrives, it is not left ambiguous. Even if two enormous plot revelations—one revealed to us about the past, the other to Thelma about the nature of Anja’s love for her—feed both strands of the film with equal intensity, one still feels more fulfilled by the human story than by the superhuman one.

  • Brian De Palma's Carrie echoes through this Norwegian psychological thriller, which is subtler and more daring than its model... Trier links supernatural horror to repressed memories, raging hormones, and fundamentalist zealotry, crafting a sexy and unsettling brain-teaser.

  • It's a romantic film that pays close attention to physical detail, zeroing in on freckles or strands of hair, while sometimes adopting an overseeing eye with surveillance-style shots that zoom in slowly on Thelma’s campus. The perspective is like that of a watchful animal, one that holds an uncanny connection to Thelma. Surprisingly tender, Thelma proves itself a modern take on the supernatural film, with a short burst of synth music at the end to remind us of its forebears.

  • The genre elements in “Thelma” make it feel straighter and rather less personal than some of Mr. Trier’s other work, which is perhaps why on occasion the whole thing feels like an intellectual exercise. He is obviously having fun deploying various horror tropes here . . . but it can seem as if he’s still trying out new ideas and looks. Even so, Mr. Trier’s experimenting mostly works, especially when the genre pieces dovetail with his gifts and Thelma’s story.

  • There's a lot going on in "Thelma," too much at times, with a number of familiar story-structures dovetailing in at different angles. Ultimately, it's the story of a strange submissive girl investigating the mystery of her own clouded-over past . . . "Thelma" operates, too, like a thriller, or a horror film, filled with strange portents and seemingly supernatural phenomena. There are some truly spooky sequences. But its engine is the emotional awakening of an extremely repressed girl.

  • With Trier’s brooding, precise stylization, it does cast a disturbing spell. But horror turns on helplessness, on pulling viewer and protagonist into a world that, on some basic level, they want no part of. Thelma starts with that idea, but moves away from the monstrous, toward compassion and understanding. Like an emo Carrie, it probes the profound underlying sadness beneath tales of possession. It makes vivid the protagonist’s loneliness and despair.

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