titane | julia ducournau | vincent london | agathe rousselle | garance marillier | body horror | allegory | drama | sci-fi | thriller | france | belgium | lais salameh | mara cisse | marin judas | diong-keba tacu | myriem akheddiou | betrand bonello | celine carrere
Director: Julia Ducournau
Writer: Julia Ducournau
Starring: Vincent Lindon, Agathe Rousselle and Garance Marillier
This was a movie that when I saw it was coming to the Gateway Film Center, I was intrigued. I enjoyed the director’s previous film of Raw and this one was getting buzz from groups I’m a part of on social media. Figured since this is a 2021 film, I’d give this a go. I’ve also now given it a second viewing for my year end list as well. The synopsis is following a series of unexplained crimes, a father is reunited with the son who has been missing for 10 years.
We start this movie off Alexia (Adèle Guigue) when she is age 7. Her father is driving, played by Bertrand Bonello, and he is annoyed with his daughter. She is mimicking the sound of the engine. To ignore her, the father turns up the radio, but this causes Alexia to get louder. She then takes off her seatbelt and her father tries to stop her, causing an accident. Alexia has a metal plate put in her head and a brace she had to wear as a result.
The movie then shifts into the present where Alexia is now portrayed by Agathe Rousselle. She works as a model at a car show. These women here show off their bodies and men can be a bit touchy. Alexia is dancing in front of a Cadillac with painted flames on it. After the show ends she makes friends with another woman in the shower, Justine (Garance Marillier). Alexia heads to her car and is chased by a fan. He wants an autograph, which she agrees to in order to get him to leave. When he asks for a kiss, she obliges and stabs him in the ear with her hairpin.
She goes back inside to shower again and she hears loud banging coming from the showroom. She is naked and dripping wet when gets into the car she modeled on. Alexia is turned on and gets off while in the backseat. We are seeing the car bouncing up and down as she does with her arms wrapped up in the seatbelts.
From here we get the idea that Alexia is a bit off. She lounges about the house most of the day. Her father doesn’t seem to like to be around her and her mother, Céline Carrère, loves her. We see some horrific events though that causes her to flee. The police are looking for her and she decides to disguise herself as Adrien, a missing boy we heard about on the news. This boy’s father comes, Vincent (Vincent Lindon), believing she is his son.
There are some deep seeded issues there. It is a rough go at first, but Alexia settles into who she is pretending to be. Those around Vincent don’t believe she is Adrien though. Alexia has a much bigger problem that is growing in her stomach.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap as I did leave out some important aspects as to not spoil them for anyone reading this. Where I’ll start is that I came in with as much of a blank slate as I could for this movie. I knew that I loved Raw and that people I follow had seen this movie. It was getting high praise. I was excited, but I also didn’t know what to expect.
Where I want to start then would be the character of Alexia. I’m thinking there must be autism or some sort of personality disorder here. As a child, she is annoying on purpose. This could be that she is a sociopath as well. She wants to aggravate her dad. Needing to have the plate in her head and the scar on the side of her head that it caused, I think has a profound effect on her and for what happens later. I did hear some people stating that this is a take on David Cronenberg’s Crash. I don’t feel that is the case aside from Alexia having a fetish for this car, machinery and being body horror. I did pick up after this second viewing that her plate is made of titanium.
That is where I’m going to go next, the body horror aspects. For some reason in my head, I wasn’t expecting them. I’ve brought up writer/director Ducournau’s previous film so I should have been ready. There were multiple scenes that made me cringe with how realistic they look. I was joined by around ten other people. I could see many of them with the same reaction as myself. The effects are something that I should give credit to here. It is interesting that this is being compared to Crash, because I’d put both of Ducournau’s films on par with Cronenberg for grounded body horror. The effects looked practical and were great. There was some CGI as well, but I didn’t have problems there.
Getting back to the story, there is an aspect of this movie I haven’t covered. There is a serial killer in the area. It appears there have been four bodies found over the course of a year. This is a slight spoiler, but it shouldn’t come as a shock, Alexia is this killer. What I like though is that we aren’t given a motive. She is a sociopath that is crazy and kills people. She enjoys inflicting pain on others. I was pulled in as she feels like Henry or Patrick Bateman. She also doesn’t feel bad about the turmoil she puts her family or Vincent through. Alexia is dealing with issues of her own of trying to hide something else and the physical toll it is taking on her.
One last part for the story is the idea of toxic masculinity in this movie. I’ll explore this more in the spoiler section I’m doing at the end, but I wanted to bring this up. There is the fan in the beginning. Alexia’s father doesn’t seem to like her much. When she is taken in with Vincent and the firefighters, there is Rayane (Laïs Salameh) who was the top student until ‘Adrien’ showed up. The other men on the team make off-handed comments about ‘Adrien’s’ sexuality and they look uncomfortable with a dance scene late in the movie. Along with some of the other ideas explored, this makes a lot of sense to have commentary on.
That is about the extent of what I can go into there, but I’m going to do a spoiler section at the end. I’ll take this then to the acting for the movie. I thought that Rousselle was great here. She plays this broken character so well. I like that it establishes her as a child and how it has shaped the adult that she is. I also liked Lindon as this broken father. He misses his son and he’s getting older so he is losing it at work. His wife left him, I’m assuming over the disappearance of Adrien. He doesn’t have much going for him so when he thinks his son is home, he clings to that idea and will do whatever he can to protect it. These two are our leads so I’d also say that Marillier, Salameh, Myriem Akheddiou, Bonello, Carrère, Guigue and the rest of the cast also rounded this out for what was needed.
Then the last parts to go into here would be the cinematography and soundtrack. I think we get some amazing shots here. The opening credits are done by showing us an engine as it works. We get a great establishing sequence to kick off the movie. Alexia goes through some traumatic moments with her condition and how the attacks are filmed. I was impressed. The soundtrack also fits for what was needed and help to set the atmosphere.
So then in conclusion here, I’m glad that I saw this movie. It has an interesting enough premise and story that is equal parts grounded with fantasy. The performances from Lindon and Rousselle drive this movie with the rest of the cast there in support. This movie can be brutal with some of the body horror, so if you’re squeamish, I’d avoid this. The effects, soundtrack and cinematography all help to build the atmosphere needed here. I’ll also warn you, this is an arthouse type film, but if you can get past that style, I think we have a solid film here.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10
What I was dancing around here is that somehow, Alexia becomes pregnant. I’m wondering if we are getting a commentary on pro-choice vs. pro-life. The only time something sexual is done to her is when she masturbates in the car, but it also seems like it is having sex with her. I do wonder if there is commentary here with the fan chasing her, that possible she was raped, but we do not see it. This could explain why she doesn’t seem to like men as well. Alexia realizes she is pregnant when she is with Justine. We get a horrific scene where she tries to perform an abortion on herself with a hairpin. It fails though. This seems like the movie is stating that abortions should be done by an expert, not in the ‘back alley’.
Alexia does carry this baby to full term. She has these recurring problems where she thinks she is leaking motor oil and that her baby is part machine. This goes back to the car, but also because she has a plate in her head. I took this as really meaning that she was raped, carrying a child she doesn’t want to. It is a monster growing within her that she eventually gives birth to. It is causing her physical pain and taking its toll on her as well. Being that she is part machine, I think that is what she thinks her child is as well. Those are the only issues that I wanted to delve into here.