Thelma opens with a brief and extremely unsettling scene that doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a solid half of its runtime, so much so that I sort of forgot about it until the story really began to unfold. This is a microcosm of what Trier does so beautifully throughout the film - he shows us something rather straightforward, usually of a celestial nature, and proceeds to move on from it without wasting much time ruminating either via his characters or via his editing on why what we just saw was so strange. There is a modest, layered approach to introducing unusual occurrences that is indicative of this sort of Nordic filmmaking, but just under the surface is a thoughtfulness that doesn't usually emerge in movies centered around a supernatural conceit. So I don't have to continue to be vague, here are some rhetorical worksheet-ish questions that've been rattling around in my head since leaving the film:
2. Has Thelma's family always been religious, or have they just adopted religious faith in an effort to control Thelma's abilities? There is minimal (or no) religious imagery around their home, and in flashbacks there is no indication that these are strict Christians prior to the death of Thelma's brother.
3. Does Thelma's father deserve to die? What would you do differently if you were him to try to control this situation and its potentially fatal impact on other people?
4. Do you suspect that Thelma was involved in her mother's becoming crippled? Are you glad we were spared that flashback if so?
A must-see film and one of the best of the decade. Hopefully this can occupy the space of one of those forum favorites (we all know what those are) in the future if you all take my recommendation and get out to see it. Looks like it'll be released theatrically by The Orchard next month.