Titane (2021) Film Review, a movie directed by Julia Ducournau and starring Vincent Lindon, Agathe Rousselle, Garance Marillier, Lais Salameh, Mara Cisse, Marin Judas, Diong-Keba Tacu, Myriem Akheddiou, Bertrand Bonello, Celine Carrere, Adele Guigue, Thibault Cathalifaud, Dominique Frot, Lamine Cissokho, Florence Janas and Olivia Venner.
Titane is a movie that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in cinema. It was directed by Julia Ducournau who stunned the movie world with her terrific film Raw from several years back. What is most interesting about Titane is that it asks audiences to sympathize with a female murderer who has an antisocial personality. You could say it is like a female Joker in the way it asks the viewer to challenge what type of person can be accepted as a movie protagonist. While technically proficient and well-acted, it is also a quite disturbing film that compels the viewer in unusual ways. It makes one question what is acceptable by a parent and what is important to sustain one’s true self and humanity through a bizarre, yet intriguing storyline.
As the picture opens, we see a young girl named Alexia (Adele Guigue) who is in a car when she unfastens her seat belt. Her father (Bertrand Bonello) tries to help her put it back on but an accident occurs which leads Alexia to get a plate in her head after being severely injured. The movie fast forwards some years later where Alexia (now being played by Agathe Rousselle) is dancing in provocative car shows for men. When one of these men follows Alexia and tells her he is in love with her, the two characters begin to kiss but Alexia removes from her hair a very dangerous weapon that she proceeds to use on the man to kill him.
Let’s not jump ahead to call Alexia simply anti-men, though, because she soon starts having relations with a female co-worker. Alexia bites down hard on her woman partner’s breast nipple causing discomfort for the other female and awkwardness between them. The plot really thickens when Alexia murders not one, not two but three people who are sharing a living space when a fourth one appears causing Alexia to become even more erratic. Did I mention that, in the interim, Alexia ties herself up in the back of a car proceeding to have sex with it in one of the most unusual cinematic scenes in recent memory?
In short order, Alexia flees the scene with the authorities soon in pursuit of her for her crimes. She decides to drastically change her outer appearance. There is a missing person at large–a long lost boy named Adrien who Alexia soon takes the identity of to escape her potential fate for the murders she has committed. We meet a fire chief named Vincent (portrayed by Vincent Lindon) who is the father of Adrien and he is happy to accept his “son” back with open arms. There are several problems, though. Alexia has become pregnant by the car she engaged in steamy sexual relations with and another very problematic situation is that she’s not really Adrien. But, it doesn’t matter because Vincent loves his son regardless of what is going on with him and this creates a very intriguing dynamic between the two central characters here. The father and “the son.” While the well-built Vincent is injecting steroids into his back end for his own personal problems, he notices something is different about Adrien but whatever it is, they’re going to work it out if Vincent has anything to say about it.
We also meet Adrien’s mother (Myriem Akheddiou) briefly who Vincent fears may want to take Adrien from his care. However, that appears not to be the case. There are larger difficulties than that, as a matter of fact, including the sharp, pointy nature of whatever is growing inside Alexia’s belly. When Alexia, as Adrien, dances on top of a fire truck provocatively as a throwback to her old days, we see there are two sides to this complex character which are adequately portrayed by the scenes the director puts together.
The performances by Rousselle and Lindon are incredible and, perhaps, even Oscar-nomination worthy. This film is especially timely in an age where people want to be accepted for who they are and what gender they identify with. In some cases, people identify as non-binary and this film aptly captures the complexity of the fact that many people can become confused by their identity and who they are as people creating deep emotions that are multi-faceted in their excesses. Rousselle and Lindon’s characters touch on these themes in two ways. First, Rouselle’s character(s) are challenged by the fact that Alexia/Adrien are, indeed, two different people. One is a pregnant woman and the other is a fireman’s son. The other situation is that Vincent notices there are problems with his “son” but chooses to look the other way when things seem strange in order to see the character as, simply, his child. Rousselle and Lindon are well matched creating a touching, believable relationship together.
The problematic aspect of Titane, for me, personally, is that Alexia is also a serial killer. This is where I feel the movie makes a mistake. Even with Joker, which sympathized with an antisocial murderer, I had my problems which most viewers didn’t have. I may be in the minority here but If Alexia had murdered one person, the audience may have been able to feel more sorry for her as she starts leaking oil from her pregnancy and enters into a horrific chain of bodily events that triggers her need for Vincent’s love and support. I did feel some compassion towards Alexia/Adrien but more for Vincent and this may be the intention of the filmmakers. The movie has a clever storyline and may have been more interesting if we could have related more to Alexia.
Nevertheless, this film must be seen for its truly intriguing storyline and performances. Titane is nothing short of a cinematic rarity–a film which challenges viewers to see something that may be impossible (a pregnancy through sex with a car) with a humane eye. This film makes the viewer question if Alexia’s suffering is punishment for her actions and whether or not her relationship with Vincent will be her salvation. It’s a good picture.
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