For all its troubles and weirdness, Titane is a uniquely intriguing picture.
Published on October 15, 2021
Rating 4 /5
Julia Ducournau became a breakout director for her strong body horror film Raw. It was a vicious and gory picture but also managed to touch upon the essence of wanting to be accepted and not feeling comfortable in your own body. Her follow-up film of Titane is a whole lot more. Sure, there’s way more violence and a way heavier focus on the nature of a body tearing itself apart but also a surprising amount of love.
That last statement may sound strange when you consider the premise of such a picture. It almost sounds too strange to be real so bear that in mind. The film concerns the quiet, violent, and desperate woman Alexia. At a young age, Alexia caused a commotion in the car and ended up in an accident. A metal plate had to be inserted into her skull. After having recovered, she forms love of cars. It starts with hugging and proceeds into a career where she acts as a car model, feeling up and sexualizing cars. Then, when everyone leaves and she’s all alone, Alexia has sex with cars.
Alexia seems to get along more with cars than she does anybody else. She fears the sexual advances of others and proceeds to kill anyone she gets close to. She wants love but doesn’t know where to find it. She’s most distant from her parents and finds herself getting into sexual encounters that all end with violence. When her murders become more traceable, Alexia goes on the lam. To conceal herself, she dresses up as a man and proclaims herself to be the long-missing son of a saddened firefighter, Vincent. Maintaining her new gender is going to be difficult when she’s also pregnant. But not pregnant with a human baby as the enlarging womb reveals something more. Something metallic.
There’s a whole lot of oddness going on in such a picture. Even if you can take the concept of a woman having sex with a car and becoming pregnant with its child, there’s still plenty of odd scenes. The heart of the picture, however, is about the relationship between Vincent and Alexia. For Alexia, this relationship is little more than cover. For Vincent, however, he displays unquestioning love for the return of his son. Even as Alexia slowly reveals herself to really be a woman, Vincent slowly becomes more accepting and understanding. Part of him realizes his son is gone and never coming back. He just wants to feel that there is someone still present to take care of. Someone to love.
Though ultimately a film about the oddness of the human body and the warmth that comes from being there for others, there’s a complex nature that sends out a few mixed messages. One could interpret Alexia’s journey as one of trying to accept her body but, on another level, there’s a component of terror about her body that may send the opposite message. After all, there comes a point when she starts bleeding oil, and metal can be seen ripping her body from the inside. There’s sympathy for her but given the ultimate fate of Alexia in this picture, there’s a concerning subtext, perhaps unconscious, that almost delivers the opposite of body acceptance.
For all its troubles and weirdness, Titane is a uniquely intriguing picture. It’s very tough to watch at times for a multitude of scenes involving people getting stabbed in the ear, having their noses broken, and injecting themselves with drugs. There’s also, you know, the whole metallic birth scene and sex with cars that is sure to breed some discomfort in the audience. Ultimately, though, the human elements of Titane far outpace its oddness that there’s far more to this picture than just the one where the woman has a car baby.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.