Julia Ducournau (director)
26 December 2021 (released)
23 December 2021
With her very impressive debut Raw director and writer Julia Ducournau has been lauded as a ‘one to watch’. Her follow up confirms that adding a ‘definitely’.
There are no two ways about it Titane is a strange film narratively and visually. The latter more than the former though they are quite clearly carefully meshed together so there’s no jarring weirdness just a continuous flow of it.
A car infatuated Alexia (Adèle Guigue) suffers a terrible childhood injury in a car accident and has titanium plate inserted in her head. Her fixation on cars however is not diminished as she strokes and kisses one as she leaves hospital.
As an adult Alexia (Agathe Roussell) is now a professional dancer performing at car exhibitions. In a visual and aural extravagant sequence Alexia’s fetish for cars and disdain for the fans she has attracted over the years, are blatant, one of whom she kills.
This isn’t a random act of violence as we see later on but more bizarre is the relationship, she has with her car with which she has a strange and lively S&M bondage session. Hooking up with one of the dancers later on Alexia’s murderous side takes over though complications allow one to escape.
Now on the run and hunted she hits on the idea of disguising herself as Adrien; a boy who had gone missing ten years ago, presumed to be still alive, his poster having been computer adulterated to suggest how he may have aged.
It works and Adrien’s father Vincent (Vincent Lindon) picks her up from the police station taking her to the fire station where he is the captain. Vincent, a strong muscular man with Alpha male tendencies now tries to reconnect with Adrien, difficult as she is not talking. The fire-crew have Adrien forced on them with some repercussions and then Adrien’s mother (Myriem Akheddiou) turns up.
A film very much of two halves Titane is part horror, part melodrama with some comedic elements sewn into it. The first part somewhat sets up the second with the adult Alexia still living with her parents though at a distance. There’s an inability to latch on to human feelings, much as she tries, before her feral violent nature takes over.
In Vincent she finds a struggling man’s man who while in good shape is ageing, resorting to drugs to sustain him. To some extent he’s keeping up with his younger fire-crew who all sport perfect bodies and are only too happy to strip down when required. But this is also filling the vacuum left by Adrien’s disappearance. As noted by his wife; he’s not moved on keeping Adrien’s room and things around him that Alexia finds.
The Alexia/Vincent dynamic plays out less oddly than the opening scenes. But in these Ducournau probs fan worship and misogyny; how far does one become a property once in the public eye, in a really quite unpleasant scene on a number of levels.
The acting is excellent and a certain empathy does develop for both leads. Alexia is the harder character, though clearly vulnerable her initial nihilism and capacity for extreme violence are difficult. While Vincent cuts an almost pathetic figure gradually developing a certain strength and self-awareness when Alexia/Adrien comes into his life.
One viewing of this film may too much for some but it is worth returning to as it’s a multi-layered film which is deceptive having two distinct halves. The second in the fire station may be a little on the long side but here too Ducournau makes excellent use of sound. The terrible sounds of Alexia applying her disguise. Then there’s the firemen off duty indulging in booze and drugs one time mellowing out, another full-on shirt off rave.