Norwegian horror film ‘Thelma’ passes on overt thrills for clever metaphor

Justin Jones

College freshman Thelma is just like everyone else—she’s awkward around new people, shocked by her recent freedom, and her dorm room looks like an Ikea catalog. As unexplainable events begin to follow her, Thelma’s world unravels and her story takes the shape of a cultural metaphor.

Norwegian director Joachim Trier uses the supernatural story of “Thelma” to deliver a brilliant parable of freedom and sexuality. As the title character, star Eili Harboe’s largely quiet performance grounds the film in reality, bringing authenticity to an inherently unbelievable story.

The first act of “Thelma” is a fairly common but generally engaging college film, following the character as she struggles to make friends and fit in. She quickly befriends Anja (Kaya Wilkins), who stokes Thelma’s rebellious side, encouraging her to smoke and try alcohol for the first time.

As she begins to rebel against her strict Catholic upbringing, the film begins to kick into gear. Her relationship with Anja begins to turn romantic, and she starts to have seizures in the middle of her day, typically accompanied by a minor supernatural occurrence like a rocking chandelier or a disappearing object.

Themes of women reclaiming their bodies and forging their own, independent lives have recurred throughout many of the films at Fantastic Fest, and “Thelma” fits in with the best of them. By introducing supernatural elements to a recognizable story, Trier creates a potent parable that demands an audience.


  • “Thelma”
  • Rating: Not yet rated
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Score: 4/5 stars