Blending two seemingly opposing ideas or concepts always makes for intriguing art. For example, Julia Ducournau’s Titane combines themes of murderous rage and family love in such a way that it will burn itself onto your brain long after it’s over.
At a young age, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) was involved in a severe car accident resulting in her broken bones and fractured skull being replaced with Titanium (or Titane). Today, the intensely quiet lady with suppressed rage behind her eyes is a dancer at car shows. After one particular performance, Alexia is followed by a “fan” and sexually assaulted. Her response is to grab the needle in her hair and stab the assailant through his ear. In a related incident, she kills a subsequent would-be attacker in his home and murders his roommate and their girlfriends because they are witnesses.
Later, Alexia burns the clothes she’s wearing in her parent’s basement, which sets the house on fire. She manages to escape but not before locking her parents in their bedroom. And we’ve officially got a serial killer on our hands. Did I mention that Alexia is pregnant with a titanium baby from having sex with a car?
Needing a place to lay low, Alexia skips town and notices a mission person’s poster of a young boy, Adrien, missing ten years prior. Using aging software, she realizes she looks an awful lot like the older version of him. So Alexia decides to strap herself down to pass as the missing boy, which brings in his father, Vincent (Vincent Lindon).
“…Alexia decides to strap herself down to pass as the missing boy…”
Vincent is the town’s fire chief. He’s alone, divorced, and actively fights his temper, which makes for an incredible dynamic between the outburst of Vincent and the never-speaking Adrien/Alexia. Vincent absolutely believes Alexia is his son, and she struggles to maintain the charade because hiding her pregnancy is not easy. No, this is not a metaphor of any kind… ok, it sort of is.
Titane makes me think of a violent dish of sweet and sour pork. It’s got these solid contrasting flavors and textures that transform a WTF story into a compelling piece of art. The strange parent/child relationship between Vincent and Alexia from moment to moment is either the sweet, developing relationship of familial love or a psychotic strain of distrust. It’s this cold and intense relationship that is the heart of the film. This tension reaches its zenith as Alexia’s identity as Vincent’s son is first questioned. Now add to it the impending birth of the titanium baby.
Julia Ducournau’s offbeat motion picture is not everyone’s cup of tea. Horror fans or movie-goers who want to see something genuinely, insanely different would do well to seek this out right away. I always say that great movies make us feel, and most importantly, they don’t always need us to feel good. I’m watching this familial story while at the same time shielding my eyes from some pretty intense, gory images. I love how love and horror play against one another and do so in a way that I still can’t stop thinking about.
The reason Titane works is director Ducournau and actors Lindon and Rousselle’s commitment to their characters and stories. Each performance is played straight without a single wink to the camera. Rousselle has the most demanding job keeping her stone-cold exterior stifling an intense volcanic eruption of rage and, with just a few lines of dialogue, gets all the necessary emotions and thoughts across.
"…makes me think of a violent dish of sweet and sour pork."