Some of the best mindjob movies out there require several viewings to really fully understand just how good of a mindjob movie that they are. I watched Thelma back when it was running through the film festival circuit. And while I enjoyed it, I just don’t think I grasped what was really happening. I didn’t fully rock tumble the entirety of this movie. Heck, maybe I just flipping slept through most of it. Because if I had half a brain cell pointed at this movie I would have brought it to you right away. But now? Now it looks like I’ve been holding out on you guys. Gah. And that makes our relationship awkward and stuff, shoot. Cause that’s not good.
But how about this. I’ll make it up to you by fully unpacking this thing top to bottom. I mean, can opener, the works. (No, I’m not exactly sure what can openers have got to do with this, but it sounded good before I typed it. So yeah, might as well double and triple down…can openers, jack hammers, and thermal detonators…) First though, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it, and then come back and read my mindjob movie Thelma explained and unpacked post!
But really? Don’t hit play on this trailer. Like even a little bit. Just go find it. ‘Cause if you are a fan of movies that will make you think – and meanwhile break your brain, this is one for you.
Because there just is so much going on – or possibly going on – in this movie, I’m going to do a chronological timeline for you guys on this one.
Thelma Movie Chronologically
Thelma’s grandmother begins having seizures
She makes her husband disappear while on the lake
Her son, Trond becomes a doctor and marries Unni
They have a daughter, and name her Thelma
When Unni & Trond have another child Thelma is upset
Thelma makes Matthias teleport to under the dresser
Later, Thelma sends Matthias to under the frozen lake
Much later, Thelma’s seizures stop after she becomes a Christian
Trond and Unni believe Thelma is ok to go off to school
Thelma meets Anja and has a seizure in the library
Thelma dreams of Anja, and finds her outside her apartment
Anja breaks up with her boyfriend Daniel
They go to a ballet with Anja’s mother, and hold hands
They kiss in the lobby
Thelma goes to a party with Kristoffer
Thelma takes “drugs” and has visions of making out with Anja
Oh, and a snake wraps around her neck, and slides down her throat, yeah, that happened too
Thelma goes to a seizure study where they induce a seizure
During the seizure, Thelma makes Anja disappear
Thelma finds out her grandmother is alive and had similar symptoms
Thelma learns her “delusional” grandmother gave herself cancer
Back at school, Thelma has a seizure in the pool
Thelma visits Anja’s apartment and finds hair embedded in glass
Thelma asks parents to let her come home, and confesses
Thelma learns what she did to her baby brother
Her father tells Thelma she can make anyone do anything…
Including making Anja love her
Thelma kills her father by lighting him on fire while out on the lake
Thelma sees Anja has returned back to the school
Thelma heals her handicapped mother
Thelma, sitting on park bench, sees Anja kissing her neck…
Anja kisses Thelma’s neck, and they begin walking together
The Problem With Timelines
The problem with timelines is that they only support one truth at a time. I personally see three or four other possibilities to define how this movie could be viewed. And this timeline doesn’t take into account these other various possibilities. And even within one possible truth, the nuances of what might have happened are lost. For example, the timeline above just assumed that what the movie was telling us was true. But who’s to say that the movie was even being truthful with us? Why don’t we play with the timeline above, and maybe you’ll see what I mean.
Theory #1 – The Most Obvious Explanation
Above, in the timeline, I have walked you through my best guess for what the movie was telling us to think happened in the movie. And the central idea being that SEIZURES are caused by some sort of possession. And that this possessing (demon or other wise) ran through the family. Thelma’s grandmother had non-epileptic seizures, just like Thelma does. And these seizures came about through intense emotions or passions. And as a result, the seized caused their deepest, darkest desires to physically happen.
For some reason, Grandma wanted her husband to disappear, and he did. For some reason, Thelma wanted her baby brother to disappear, and he did…all the way out to under the lake’s sheet of ice. And in so doing, killing her brother.
Better yet? Thelma’s relationship with Anja is a fraud. Anja was dating a guy. And it was Thelma’s desire that forced Anja to leave him. It was Thelma’s psychokinetic abilities that forced Anja to leave her apartment and arrive at Thelma’s. It was Thelma that made Anja get involved with her. And, per her father’s theory, Thelma was lonely…and that desired spread out to Anja, and forced her to comply.
Theory #2 – Demon Possession Gone Awry
Wait, isn’t the fact that one is demon possessed the definition of a situation that has gone awry? I mean. Right? Anyway, but what if the family’s spiritual roots connect further back to the era of the Salem Witch Trials, etc.? And what if this connection, and the family’s spiritual background has opened them up to an attack of spiritual dimensions? This line of thinking I guess is just a further explanation of the previous theory, #1. No? But this theory speaks to the root cause of the powers that Thelma and her grandmother both have.
Theory #3 – Nothing Happened At All
But what if Trond and Unni, Thelma’s parents, were just insane? What if they were the ones that began giving Trond’s mother drugs, and it was then that her husband just walked away, completely fed up with the insanity happening all around him? And similarly, what if this same thing happened with Thelma. We have evidence that this could actually be the case.
Remember the scene where Thelma was smoking with her new “friends?” The scene where they were having her on? She wasn’t smoking drugs at all? Well, we saw that scene from two different perspectives as the movie progressed. At the time we thought that Anja and Thelma were making out. But that doesn’t make too much sense, because the guys didn’t react, no one reacted to this perceived reality. And later? We see that it was Thelma by herself. Better yet? She obviously wasn’t doing that there in the party, as the entire party would have completely upended. This was all happening completely in Thelma’s head. And there were other scenes like this throughout the course of the movie. Scenes that could have solely been in Thelma’s head, as opposed to happening “in real life.”
So who’s to say that any of these interactions really happened? What if Thelma only had a crush on Anja, but ultimately it was all inside her head? And better yet? Thelma has an active imagination, thus her ability to make happen whatever she wants to happen? And all of it a coping mechanism for her brother drowning in the lake at a young age. And her grandmother going nuts. And her father drowning in the lake (or committing suicide, which would have been understandable). Better yet, she’d prefer that her mother be healed, and able to walk, and so she believes that she healed her.
The Recurring Themes & Metaphors of Thelma
The themes and recurring elements that cycle through Thelma are pretty standard and stereotypical tropes. We have snakes. Huh. What could a snake possibly mean in this context? Well, obviously, snakes, since the earliest literature, have always been a reference to evil. And in many cultures signify Satan himself. Or demonic involvement. So if that’s the case, we have to pretty much take the snake down Thelma’s throat scene as literal. It’s an image signifying the literal possession of Thelma with the evil spirit that is “seizing” her.
The snakes are pretty easy to understand. A close by presence, possessing, horrifying, and controlling another. But what about the birds? Well, throughout literature, for ages and ages, birds have been viewed as intermediaries between the earth and the sky. So they are counterparts between the real and the spiritual worlds. Regularly in antiquity we see birds as warnings of spiritual doom, or physical disasters. But obviously each and every bird has different meanings to them. But in this context, we can see the birds and the snakes as counterparts to one another. Angels and demons, if you will.
But What About the Ending?
Regardless of how you view the movie’s mechanics as working, the ending is problematic in about a billion different ways. Reminds me of the short interview I had with Colin Minihan, discussing his movie What Keeps You Alive. Which is also a film about lesbians, wherein one happens to be a serial killer. And I was pretty intent to find out how the expectations of treating lesbians carefully, and non-judgmentally, impacted his writing of the film. Well, with Thelma? This complication is 100 times worse. Why? Well, simply put, it’d be like if in a Marvel movie, The Red Witch mind controlled a woman to become her lover. Worse, it’d be like if Superman walked up to a handsome man and told him that he’d be doing the dishes tonight and never leaving again. Right?!? That’d be HORRIFIC! (Speaking of which, if you are interested in that sort of a movie plot line, the Steelheart books would be right up your alley.)
But this is exactly what happens at the end. So Thelma is with her parents. She kills her father by lighting him on fire with something like white phosphorous. (White Phosphorous lights on fire when it comes in contact with oxygen. Put it under water and it goes out, bring it back above the surface? Yup, it lights right back up. Evil, evil stuff.) Soon after she sees that Anja is back. And so she (heals her mother, which is a totally different conversation point…I mean, her mother was advocating that Trond kill her only the day before) heads back to the school. And there, we see the two of them happily getting along just like real love birds.
Only glitch? We see Thelma thinking about Anja. Coming up behind her and kissing her neck. And then? Anja comes up behind her, kisses her neck, and then says hello. Right? RIGHT!? This is horrifically awful. Mind-blowingly terrible. Thelma is forcing Anja, and everything Anja does in their relationship. We can’t even know if Anja is, in fact, gay!? Does that even compute? We can actually, with almost 100% certainty, say that Anja actually isn’t gay.
Yes? No? Thoughts? What did you think of the movie? What theory am I missing? What do you think happened in the movie Thelma?