One of 2018’s early contenders for Best Horror Movie of the Year is Thelma, a supernatural slow-burner from Norway directed by Joachim Trier and starring Eili Harboe. The film takes a serious look at telekinesis and sexual awakening, making it something of a spiritual cousin of Stephen King’s Carrie. And while the plot isn’t particularly complex, and the conclusion is, well, conclusive, there’s still a provocative question at the center of the story that isn’t explicitly answered—or is it?
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Give the trailer and synopsis for Thelma a spin below. If you’ve already seen the film, proceed to the discussion of the movie’s most compelling unanswered question. Otherwise, bookmark this page and come back again later.
Official Synopsis: A college student starts to experience extreme seizures while studying at a university in Oslo, Norway. She soon learns that the violent episodes are a symptom of inexplicable, and often dangerous, supernatural abilities.
Warning: Below There Be Spoilers
Thelma’s ability to influence reality based on the strength of her desires has tragic consequences, specifically, the death of her infant brother at a young age. When Thelma wished her brother would stop crying, he was teleported beneath the ice of a frozen lake. As a young woman, her powers are ignited again by her sexual desires for Anja (played by Kaya Wilkins). This causes a conflict with Thelma’s religious upbringing, and, unable to cope, she unintentionally makes Anja disappear.
But Thelma learns to take control of her powers before they destroy everyone she loves; Anja returns from the ether and the two live happily ever after. Or do they? There’s a distinct possibility that Anja doesn’t love Thelma at all—and never did.
When learning the truth about her dangerous powers, Thelma’s father Trond (played by Henrik Rafaelsen) tells her that Anja didn’t love her; that she was merely under the influence of his daughter’s powers. “Did she like you before you desired her?” he asks. Well, did she?
The first time Thelma meets Anja is at the swimming pool, and Anja certainly initiates the conversation. This isn’t however, the first time Thelma sees Anja; that happened earlier in the library, after which the telekinetic suffered a seizure. It’s revealed that it’s Thelma’s inner turmoil, combined with her supernatural abilities, that causes seizures; it’s also revealed that these seizures coincide with especially powerful manifestations.
Before Anja met Thelma, before the swimming pool and the library, she had a boyfriend. Soon after the two begin hanging out, she breaks up with him in order to focus all of her amorous attention on Thelma. So while the relationship felt genuine, we can’t help but wonder if Trond was right; and since we know almost nothing of Anja’s life before she met Thelma, it’s impossible to know if she had previously had relationships with women.
Anja’s past inclinations certainly have no bearing on the present; there are plenty of people who previously identified as heterosexuals who engage in same-sex relationships. But does the film give a definitive answer regarding Anja’s free will in regards to her current situation? Yes—and it’s pretty bleak.
The final scene of the film sees Thelma waiting for Anja on a college campus. She imagines her lover approaching from behind, kissing her on the neck. Moments later, as if responding to her exact desires, Anja materializes and kisses Thelma’s neck—just as she imagined. While it’s a sweet moment, the implications are not so pure.
Remember, Thelma is a telekinetic, not a psychic. This means she wasn’t predicting Anja’s kiss—she was hoping for it. The fact that Thelma’s powers have grown throughout the film, and that she can now control them makes it clear: Anja is Thelma’s pet—whether she wants to be or not. We can infer that Thelma will never be alone again because those she desires won’t have any choice but adore her.
So what do you guys think? Do you agree with this interpretation of Thelma’s ending? Is Anja, essentially, Thelma’s love slave? Sound off in the Comments section!
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