By Riel Flack
An attempt to make complete sense of Julia Ducournau’s new intense body horror Titane would be all too perplexing. It’s one of those films where after you watch, you simply must accept its enigmatic nature and allow yourself to say, “Not sure wtf I just watched…but I liked it”. In summary, Titane is about a young woman named Alexia, played by break out actress Agathe Rousselle, who works as a professional car dancer with a burning desire for violence. After satisfying this desire by going on a killing spree quite early on in the film, she finds herself seeking refuge living in a firehall pretending to be the long-lost son of the captain firefighter, played by the brilliant Vincent Lindon.
This Cannes Palm D’or winner is ultimately a feminist film that makes no apology for its brashness or gruesome nature. Alexia murders any man who tries to take advantage of her eroticized body, and rather makes passionate, emotional, surrealist love with cars instead. Yes, you read that correctly-she has sex with cars. Alexia is an androgynous presenting woman and takes advantage of her interesting beauty to disguise herself as a young man and embodies all aspects of manhood, blending in almost seamlessly with the other firefighters. Furthermore, she personifies the essence of Virgin Mary as Alexia becomes pregnant with a Cadillac via self-mutilation and at the films intense climax, gives birth to a titanium child. Alexia can adapt to whatever obstacle life throws her way, and she does so in such a bad-ass, independent, and unapologetic feminist style.
The only obvious comparable to Titane would be Ducournau’s Raw (2016), a coming-of-age cannibalistic body horror about a young woman aspiring to become a veterinarian. Raw is undeniably more gruesome, save for those of us too squeamish to stare at the film’s cannibal depictions, but it is equally as important as Titane by drawing on the same theme of identity and standing strong in feminine power. Other films with related themes might include Promising Young Woman, Roma, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Passion of Joan Arc, and Orlando.
Importantly, this film pushes boundaries told through a previously unencountered cinematic lens. Titane is a bold, fearless, incredibly poetic, and ground-breaking work of experimental art. As such, be sure to catch it in theatres and engage in the full Ducournau experience.