2021’s Palme D’or winner was Julia Ducournau’s film Titane a follow up to her 2016 debut cannibal film , Raw’ (read our Home Ent review HERE) and this continues her exploration of identity and a whole lot more. That the first ten minutes has the films central character, a school age Alexia, having a metal plate surgically implanted into her head, then later as an adult twerking at a car expo then seemingly impregnated by a car and her body leaking oil might lead viewers to think its an undiscovered unaired episode of Jerry Springer and in a way it is. As a child Alexia is involved in a car crash necessitating the titane of the title with the metal plate being surgically implanted in her skull, in a somewhat different style from the china plate thrown at Boris Johnson’s head whenever he tells his wife about the new nanny he’s personally selected to live in his house. And the teenage Alexia is different from other kids when, after her surgery, she goes out and hugs and kisses the crashed car and must leave Prince Andrew wishing he was a transformer.
Leaping forward some years Alexia (Agathe Rouselle) is now a sort of lap dancer at a pimped up car show twerking her body over the bonnet of a car like a soft porn Fast & Furious outtake. Alexia is far from the shrinking violet with her scantily dressed body adorned with multiple tattoos and one between her breasts reading ‘Love is a dog from Hell’ presumably inspired by the same tattoo that Amanda Holden’s ex-husband must surely have. Alexia has a fan following unaware of how singularly brutal she can be and when one tries it on with her what she perpetrates on him is one of many wince inducing moments. Titane gets ever more challenging as it pushes further with the sexual liaison she has with a car that ends with her pregnant spurring her on to a short killing spree which is added to the melee but forces Alexia to go on the run. It’s her need to escape that gives her the idea of adopting the persona of a long time missing person, a boy named Adrien, and she sets about shaving her head and breaking her own nose (probably the film’s most uncomfortable scene to watch and there’ a lot of completion vying for top position).
Ducournau takes her exploration of body identity to another level with Alexia having assumed an androgynous persona under the guise of being Adrien taping down her breasts and trying to hide her burgeoning pregnancy. It’s this that takes up the majority of the film with Alexia/Adrien living with her adoptive father who’s only too happy to believe that she is his long lost son and as played by Vincent Lindon her father is far more sympathetic in what has become a family drama.
Fans of ‘Raw’ will know to expect some gruesome moments with Titane firmly in the body horror genre of Cronenberg with nods to the Tetsuo films also. Titane deservers its 18 certificate with sex and full frontal nudity but especially the violence towards and herself which makes several of the scenes a challenging watch. There’s a lot going on in Titane with layers of meaning open to interpretation and although this does suffer from ’difficult second album’ syndrome there’s more ideas going on in this most individual of films
Watch the Titane trailer HERE…