Titane: review - Murder, pregnacy and sex with the car?
Is Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winner edgy horror drama just for the sake of provocation?
A noisy child is playful in the back seat of the vehicle. The kid just can't keep it still. She imitates the sounds of the roaring engine. She drives the car with her feet, mouth, her full body. She is her driver in the backseat. In the front seat, her father is trying to watch the road and deal with his life crap. Still, he is also aspiring to be a good, or better yet average pissed off parent. He tries to take over the charge of the situation. Yet, he loses control. Over the child as well as over the wheels. Kid flies out, crashes her skull and the next thing you know they are in the hospital, girl is getting stitches and a titanium plate right above her right ear. And yes, the girl looks like she's loving all of it. The opening scene of Julia Ducournau’s Titane, this year's Palm d'Or winner could be described the best as the most average, cheap American 80s drama goes horror scene. Yet it is only the beginning of what the infamous director of Raw has prepared for her audience.
Titane brings us the story of Alexia (starring Agathe Rousselle in her feature debut), a woman who was injured as a child in a car accident and had a fixed titanium plate to her head. A few decades after the accident, Alexa is traumatised but yet is trying to find her way out in the world. She is yet another attractive girl on the verge of sexual power in the world that is... well full of abusive, obsessive, partly misogynistic slaughter worthy people that she gets rid of, for the sake of herself (let's not lie that it is for some greater cause). When it comes to working, she is naughty dancing on the car shows, because hmm, well because Alexa still has connection and love for metal, and cars... so much so that her good old Chevrolet impregnates her. Of course, this is not all of it, as Alexia's murder spree on the sexual scum on the earth is getting out of control, and her car baby is growing bigger and bigger inside of her, she decides to pose as a young guy to the family whose child has disappeared 10 years ago. Because why not?
Let's be honest, Titane is not the typical winning film at the Cannes Film Festival. It is brutal, disturbing, audience was leaving the theatre as much as they did with Ducournau's previous feature Raw. Still, one thing that can't be taken from it is that it works. Body horror, female revenge, psycho pregnancy and well, pedal-to-metal car obsession isn't something that one can think of as a coherent and artsy working film environment. Still, it is. Kind of. The best argument one can give for why did this film win is because "it is bold" (please don't ask for any further explanations), and because, well there wasn't anything as masterfully shaped as this film. Surely Beneddeta was fun, Annette did the best it could with the musical, The Worst Person in the World was a lovely but quite common story, but Titane, it is something different.
Truth to be told, this "something different" argument might be best explained as that we had a splendid decade of female-directed horror films that played with great symbolism, female body power and offered a solid onslaught while also delivering deeper meaningful stories of fear, trauma, motherhood, abuse and many more. As I already mentioned Raw several times in this text, it is a great example, it is one bizarre, female lead film about flash eating whose sole purpose is to showcase and explain the body abuse/ animal onslaught that is all around us. Yet there are a few better examples of this kind of film. The first one of them is probably A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpou, the film that does so much justice in addressing the issues of rape and middle eastern women treatment Another great example would be Preverge a murderous pregnant widow horror by Alice Lowe or Babadook by Jenifer Kent, a story about the widow, bringing up her son while crumbling under the pressure and struggling with anxiety. The true female body power art classic from the past decade definitely would be Evolution by Lucile Hadžihalolović, a film that copes with growing up, isolations, hormones and strange medical procedures on the island far away from the world.
This might be the best way to explain Titane without exploiting the story of the film or unveiling too much of it. It is neon coloured, raw art-horror with the painful and non-rewarding story that bends the rules of filmmaking and genre, pisses off the viewer, takes the best out of it and in the end leaves him empty to question himself/herself later on, why was it so good while being so brutal and futile.