First-date nerves are almost disastrous in the new clip from Joachim Trier’s Thelma (2017).
I’m a little disappointed that I missed out on seeing Norwegian supernatural suspense film Thelma when it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. (I opted for Midnight Madness fare, instead.) Other critics didn’t sleep on it: Thelma is currently sitting pretty at an 89% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Based on the synopsis, the clip (above), and the trailer (below), this seems like a film that will hit some of my major sweet spots: queer protagonists, supernatural horror, startling imagery, and an atmospheric approach.
Thelma, a shy young student, leaves her religious family and small town to study at a university in Oslo. While at the library one day, she experiences a violent, unexpected seizure. Soon after, she finds herself intensely drawn toward Anja, a beautiful young student who reciprocates Thelma’s powerful attraction. As the semester continues, Thelma becomes increasingly overwhelmed by her intense feelings for Anja – feelings she doesn’t dare acknowledge, even to herself – while at the same time experiencing even more extreme seizures. As it becomes clearer that the seizures are a symptom of inexplicable, often dangerous, supernatural abilities, Thelma is confronted with tragic secrets of her past, and the terrifying implications of her powers.
The newly-released clip reveals a woman dealing with newly-awakened passions – and the danger they bring with them.
The scene features two women on a date at a ballet performance. One of them (our protagonist Thelma) is far more nervous than the other (her love interest Anja). As Anja rests her hand on Thelma’s leg, Thelma experiences an overwhelming physical and emotional reaction. It grows in intensity until she flees the scene (presumably to avoid any supernatural shenanigans triggered by her mental state). The scene is beautifully and dramatically shot, with cuts between the dancers and Thelma’s face heightening the tension in the scene. The diagetic music in the form of the orchestral ballet score perfectly pairs with the psychological drama of the scene.
Thelma’s supernatural powers seem to be a manifestation of violent ambivalence to her own sexual desires. At least, that’s the subtext hinted at in the trailer. Is Joachim Trier using supernatural horror to explore the harm caused by homophobic societies?
You’ll have to see the film to find out for sure. I plan to.