Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Eili Harboe gives a star-making performance in Joachim Trier’s (Louder than Bombs, VIFF 15) gripping movie. Her Thelma is a college freshman, new to the big city and feeling lonely and vulnerable. One day, she’s studying in the library when Anja (Okay Kaya) sits down next to her. For Thelma, it’s love at first sight—followed by a terrifying seizure. Thus begins a journey in which sexuality, religion and the supernatural vie for control of the soul. As Thelma’s sexuality blossoms, snakes coil around sleeping bodies, a cloud of crows darkens the sky and scenes of violence and terror flash before us. The heroine discovers powers she can’t understand or control; as she searches for answers, her stern, religious parents (Henrik Rafaelson and Ellen Dorrit Peterson) prepare for the worst. Is she evil? Are they?
Trier’s movie is a suspenseful mystery, a tender love story, and a terrifying vision of wickedness; the director combines beauty and horror in a way few filmmakers would dare. This is a work in the Nordic tradition of Carl Dreyer and Ingmar Bergman, but, along with the austere beauty and smouldering sexuality, there are thriller elements that recall Hitchcock at his best. Trier proves himself a master of suspense, yet he never lets the thriller elements obstruct his deep sympathy for Thelma. Her story is a deeply moving one.