A young woman’s blossoming sexuality tilts into telekinetic horror in Thelma, a Norwegian art-house Carrie filtered through cool blue tones. Like Brian De Palma’s infamous high school muse, the title character (Eili Harboe) is a pretty, sensitive girl entering a social world — here, the chilly urban bustle of an Oslo university — that her strict religious background has left her utterly unprepared for. Friendless and almost pathologically shy, she keeps to a rigid routine of swimming and studying and cooking sad little meals for one in her anonymous apartment, wandering through her own life like a small, tidy ghost.
Her only reliable human contact comes in the daily phone calls from her concerned, weirdly overbearing parents, until the afternoon she locks eyes with a beautiful classmate (Kaya Wilkins) and falls to the ground in a jolting seizure. The moment passes, but it’s enough to spark a friendship and open Thelma up to feelings entirely new to her — and radically dangerous to the people she cares about. Director Joachim Trier (2011’s unforgettable Oslo, August 31) torques the narrative tension masterfully, offering glimpses of the natural world (a snake slithering through grass, fish frozen in a winter pond) that are as unsettling as his flashes of action are electric. Thelma doesn’t play with pig’s blood and jump scares; its dreamlike dread is subtler and stranger, and much harder to shake.