Since Julia Ducournau’s debut feature Raw was released back in 2016 and marked my favourite movie of the year, I’ve been keen to see what she would produce next. Titane has been critically lauded and Ducournau has picked up the Palme d’Or for her thought provoking and confrontational body horror film.
So while this has resonated with a certain audience tailored to a more highbrow concept, how does this relate to the general public?
It’s a film that buries itself deeply into the trauma of its narrative. From this the true horror of human conditioning is on screen and Ducournau never shies away from the impact that this has on not just the central character but also for those that associate with her.
Our lead protagonist Alexia, (played by Agathe Rousselle) has survived a horrific car accident as a child and was fitted with a titanium plate as part of her recovery. The physical surgery scar is often on display as a constant reminder of the burden that this episode has had on Alexia. The result of which leads her on an internal struggle that leads her towards a level of hypersexuality that often eventuate in violent ends. Agatha’s sexual awakening is one born out of depression, anxiety, and oppression that is heavily drawn through a feeling of shame about her own identity and the feelings that she is experiencing that cannot be contained. Instead these emotions spill outward and are often enacted on those she is having a sexual experience with.
After essentially going on a killing spree to mask this oversensualised feelings, she finds salvage in her own automobile, to come full circle with the instrument of her torment and is encapsulated through gratification. This however has its own ramifications as Alexia fall pregnant and appears to be secrete motor oil from her vagina and her bodily transformations suggests that she has fallen pregnant as a result of her automobile encounter. This forces Alexia to go into hiding by masking her own feminity.
The masculisation of her character is an act out of desperation. With no connection to society, Alexia becomes a lonely island who seeks refuge in the only place that will accept her new form, as Adrien, a boy who disappeared 10 years ago. Adrien’s father Vincent (Vincent Lindon) a man healing from his own trauma from losing his son, is only too willing to accept the mirage that has entered back into his fold, and a male dominated world of firefighting. As is often the way it is the broken who can heal one another. Trauma, however can never be masked and no matter how hard you try to mask it, if left untreated the effects will find a way of coming to the surface.
Director Julia Ducournau has gone on record stating that this film is not a horror movie. And while this may be true in terms of what we consider the horror genre to contain, Titane carries some horrific elements of brandishing the scars that trauma can have.
The journey that Alexia takes is a brutal one that not only sheds light on what trauma can do to a person, but more importantly the extremes that a woman must endure in order to be accepted, in this case to the detriment of her own femininity. A theme that Julia Ducournau explores well and places Titane as one of my contenders for film of the year.
– Saul Muerte