For all the innumerable movies in recent years about superpowers, rarely do they seem to touch on the horror potentials. The X-Men series occasionally dips a toe in but feels far more comfortable exploring political consequences of genetic advancement. There were hints of horror in the regrettable recent Fantastic Four but that got lost in the mix. Really you have to look to the cinematic adaptions of Stephen King (in particular, Carrie) to find a quality horror exploration of superpowers. And now, adding to the canon, comes Joachim Trier's chillingly effective Thelma.
Chronicling our protagonist as she leaves her strictly Christian home for university, the film explores her developing attraction to a classmate, as concurrently she begins to suffer a series of epileptic episodes. As Thelma delves deeper into unlocking who she is, it becomes apparent that she is a very powerful and potentially dangerous individual, with familial secrets hidden from her.
From director Joachim Trier (who had previous arthouse hits
Some powerfully strange imagery (thanks to coldly effective cinematography from Jakob Ihre) is employed from the film's opening on an ice-covered lake through to a finale where the pieces of the puzzle click into place. The film veers into the horror genre, particularly when it explores Thelma's childhood, and comes up with some genuinely haunting sequences. At times this threatens to impact the film too much, but the film always remains grounded when it returns to Harboe's exceptional portrayal. The restraint the film shows won't be for everyone but it elevates the material beyond the schlock it could have been and shows why
Much more then Carrie with a lesbian love story tacked on, Thelma proves a fascinating film that explores several interesting themes. It is all helped by a marvellous star turn from Harboe, who gives one of the strongest performances of the year.
This is a London Film Festival preview and Thelma will be released on Friday 3rd November.