Festivals, Reviews

TIFF 2021: ‘Titane’—Both Horrifying and Uplifting

Seeing this promotional photo for Titane would immediately make one conclude that this film has some sort of Fast and Furious vibe, filled with cars and sexy women; but it’s more than that. Maybe even different than that.

Julia Ducournau’s second feature film is an absolute thrill ride from start to finish. The film follows Alexia (Agathe Roussell), a thirtysomething sexed-up car show model who was in an automobile accident when she was younger, leaving her with a titanium plate in her skull. From the beginning, Alexia is fascinated with cars; this is what led to her a career where men and women alike fawn over her. After an unfortunate encounter with a fan, Alexia gravitates towards the car she modeled for. This leads to a night of euphoria where Alexia and the car have sexual intercourse. When Alexia finds out she is impregnated by the vehicle, she goes on a rampage where she kills several people and is hunted by authorities.

Now framed as a serial killer and trying to escape, Alexia finds a way to hide and evade capture as she poses as Adrien, a missing boy from decades ago. She is taken to the long-time grieving father of Adrien, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), and he welcomes this “Adrien” to his home. 

Ducournau isn’t straying away from her roots of body horror as she captures Alexia’s pregnancy and how it changes her body. After a promising debut with Raw, Ducournau gave it her all with Titane, which won the prestigious Palme D’or; though some might think it was an odd choice. The characterization of Alexia is horrifying but the way Ducournau handles her journey throughout the film brought out one of the best character developments in recent cinema. The chemistry between Alexia and Vincent is so electrifying. Their relationship is the most wholesome thing in such a gory film, helping alleviate the cringe that is felt throughout its duration. The film also showcases different dance numbers with dance tunes which give the film such energy into it like its main character. 

But with all the murders and the car sex, one of the best things about Ducournau’s story is the theme of found family. This trope can be overused at times but with Alexia and Vincent, their found family was perfect. Alexia had a complicated relationship with her father and finally gets the missing paternal love from Vincent; the same can be said with Vincent who lost his child. Another theme that Ducournau plays around with is defying heteronormativity and gender fluidity with Alexia’s appearance. Throughout the film, Alexia had to hide and pretend to be Adrien, which led to some confusion among secondary characters. Roussell portrayed both the sexed-up Alexia and the quiet Adrien amazingly; two contrasting personas that she had to juggle.

With a solid script and performances, Titane also delivers a delicious visual to pair up with the sexiness and violence, as cinematographer Ruben Impens (who also did Raw) envisions the beautiful chaos that is Alexia’s life. Titane proves itself to be horrifying and uplifting; a confusing journey that works. The emotions it evokes in the viewer are such a mixed bag, which makes Titane an enjoyable watch. You’re left with so much to think about.

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