Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Laïs Salameh, Garance Marillier, Mara Cissé
Director: Julia Ducournau
“Following a series of unexplained crimes, a father is reunited with the son who has been missing for 10 years.”(IMDb)
»Currently streaming on Hulu«
What to Expect
Why You Should Watch It
Is body horror your thing? How about gratuitous scenes that involve yanking on nipples? Are you a pyro? Maybe you have French sensibilities? Or maybe you’re catching up on last year’s winner of Cannes’s coveted Palme d’Or?
If so, then this film is for you. Everyone else…you might just want to skip it.
Titane is one of those films that both challenges and affirms my love of weird movies. On the one hand, this is exactly what I asked for. On the other, seeing the amount of praise it’s received against my own personal dislike makes me feel dimwitted and uncultured. (Of the many notes I made during my watch, “What the actual fuck” and “THE FUCK WAS THE GODDAMN POINT” are the two that stand out the most. How does a film like that win such high honors?)
Alexia (Rousselle) has a titanium plate put in her head after suffering a car accident as a child (titane being French for “titanium”). The traumatic event causes her to have an affinity for vehicles, which evolves into mechanophilia as she gets older. As an adult, she is an exotic dancer and performs on cars, while also developing a side hobby as a murderer. But it doesn’t take long for her to screw up her killing spree, and soon the cops are on to her. Alexia disguises herself as a long-lost missing boy and assumes his identity, protecting herself from the police and getting free food and a new job from a father who is so desperate for his son to return, he refuses to do a DNA test.
But a wrench has been thrown in her carefully crafted plans. Alexia is pregnant, clearly the consequence of her tryst with the Cadillac she had been dancing on the same night. The longer Alexia, now Adrien, stays with her surrogate father Vincent (Lindon), the more she finds herself wanting to be a son for him. So she continues to bandage her breasts and belly, suffering through the pains of carrying a half-mechanical baby: leaking motor oil and seeing her skin split open to show titanium underneath more than just the back of her head.
Somehow, while hugely pregnant yet still dressed as Adrien, she dances suggestively on top of a fire engine to the disgust and confusion of her firefighter coworkers and Vincent. And then afterwards, mirroring her scenes with the Cadillac, she fucks the fire engine.
By now Vincent has discovered that his long last son is actually a very pregnant stranger, but he is willing to go along with the ruse as he can’t handle losing his son again. When Alexia crawls into bed with Vincent, frightened at going into labor, he assumes responsibility and helps her deliver her car baby. She dies. Fin.
I still refer to Alexia as she throughout her transformation into Adrien because I’m unsure of which identity she wanted to assume. On the one hand, she appears to be running away from her womanhood by choosing a missing boy to impersonate instead of a missing girl. She resents and fears her pregnancy. And when she crawls into bed with Vincent at the very end, it looks like she’s growing a bit of a mustache on her upper lip. With the amount magical realism in this film, it’s not a stretch to assume that she was becoming more masculine just by sheer force of will.
Yet even living as Adrien, she still admires feminine clothes and takes pleasure in dancing on vehicles with moves that are decisively feminine. So, just like a car (and yes, I know cars traditionally take feminine pronouns), Alexia doesn’t seem to exist on either side of the gender spectrum.
Fire is a motif in this, from the Cadillac Alexia dances on being painted in flames, to her killing her parents by fire, and subsequently getting “adopted” by a fire chief. It can be a symbol for cleansing, or purification. Like a phoenix, Alexia rises from her parents’ ashes to become Adrien, shedding much of her former self.
We also see fire (a lot of it) in Rayane’s death. Rayane (Salameh) was the firefighter who easily could have been a replacement for Adrien, but his affections were never returned by Vincent. When Rayane began doubting if Adrien was the real Adrien, Vincent pushed him away even more. This culminates in the two running through a wildfire and coming upon a trailer home. Vincent incorrectly tries to dispose of a propane tank, and Rayane takes it from him, then the tank explodes.
The death certainly appears deliberate. In Rayane’s immolation, Vincent has removed the external doubt about Adrien. But he was also distracted that day, possibly because he knew the truth about Alexia, and was grappling with the fact that his real son would never come back to him.
It’s tragic that Vincent rejected the one son he could have had. Instead, he gets a fraud who doesn’t speak and only begrudgingly shows affection before popping out a baby and dying. But of course the silver lining in all of this (besides the BABY’S SPINE) is that Vincent is absolved of eternally waiting for Adrien to return, and he finally receives a second chance at raising a child.