In advance of its international premiere at this month’s upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, Norway has picked director Joachim Trier’s new feature “Thelma” as its official foreign-language Oscar submission. The ambitious thriller just opened last month’s Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund, where it received the Norwegian Film Critics Prize.
The film is Trier’s fourth feature, and his second to make the cut — his 2006 debut “Reprise” was picked to represent his home country, but did not make the final nominations cut. It was picked from a shortlist of candidates, which included Norwegian directors Izer Aliu’s “Hunting Flies” (Fluefangeren) and Jorunn Myklebust Syversen’s “The Tree Feller” (Hoggeren).
In the film, a young Norwegian student moves to Oslo and falls in love with a beautiful classmate. At the same time, she begins to notice her own mystifying and inexplicable connection to the supernatural. It’s a decidedly different direction for the filmmaker behind such indie favorites as “Reprise” and “Oslo, August 31st,” one who is best known for his beautifully humanistic films.
Elli Harboe stars in the film as the eponymous Thelma, with Okay Kaya, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, and Henrik Rafaelsen filling out the rest of the main cast.
“‘Thelma’ confirms that Trier is a unique and style-safe film artist of a broad and international format,” explained the Norwegian Oscar committee, “Based on his special and character-exploring universe, the film has become an all-embraced, ambitious and personal drama about a young woman’s awakening and detachment. It is a film that fascinates, touches, and revolts, and starting with the thriller Trier creates a much larger Nordic, in particular Norwegian story in a universal framework that anyone can recognize.”
They added, “Pronounced use of dramaturgical instruments, film-historical references and architecture makes ‘Thelma’ stand out as an impressive innovation in Norwegian cinema. Not least, the lead actress Eili Harboe promises to make a unique film vision.”
The chairman of the Oscar committee, managing director Sindre Guldvog, of the Norwegian Film Institute, also weighed in: “‘Thelma’ is a film that touches the viewer on several levels, both emotionally and intellectually — it is visually striking, modern in its expression, at the same time with clear references to film classics. With this film Trier, Vogt, and their regular group of assistants have delivered a story that will reach a wide audience, and which we strongly believe in as our Oscar candidate.”
Every country chooses their submissions differently. In December, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the shortlist of foreign-language contenders, with the final Oscar nominations revealed on January 23, 2018. The Oscars ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on March 4, 2018.
The film will next screen at TIFF and NYFF. The Orchard will release “Thelma” on November 10.