In the story, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), who sees no love from her father, is involved in a car accident as a child and has titanium plate fitted into her head. After the accident, the girl is in love with cars; she gets pregnant from having sex with a car; she commits many murders and even kills her parents. And in the end, she dies in labor.
The film’s director was born in Paris in 1983. Ducournau’s feature film debut, Raw, is also a body horror (in body horror films the human body is subjected to physical abuse, mutations, etc.), where the protagonist turns from a vegetarian into a cannibal.
The director’s style and method are rightly compared to those of Canadian director David Cronenberg. Cronenberg’s films, too, are not about the soul but about shock, the characters are monsters, and the bodies undergo transformations.
Ducournau is following in his footsteps, and the victory of Titane confirms once again that today’s prestigious film festivals are dominated by films made in the cheap horror aesthetic, focused on violence against the human body and all kinds of disgusting experiments on it. The priority is given to films that glorify the superpower of women, the concept of their asexuality, films in which men are killed without motivation, films that defy normality. Moreover, if these films are directed by feminist filmmakers, victory is one hundred percent guaranteed!
Preoccupation with Freudianism, the search for a Freudian motive behind every tragedy, drama, and personal failure have mutilated and simplified modern filmmaking. In this sense, Titane is another banal interpretation of Freudianism. The director shows Alexia’s father, who gives her no love, no attention, as the only culprit for her transformation into a monster, her gender identity crisis. But for some reason she does not explore what led to this, there are no scenes depicting the father’s pressure on his daughter, not a single situation of the kind is included in the story. She settles for just one fragment from Alexia’s childhood: riding with her father in the car, the girl annoys and distracts him, and they get into an accident as a result.
The physical appearance of the little girl chosen for the role of Alexia as a child is somehow made to resemble a sociopath, a devil. “Alexia wasn’t an angel as a child either, but I don’t give an explanation for her sociopathy,” the director says in an interview. The director probably wanted to show how a person who grew up without love, experiencing a mental crisis, loses trust in people, in society, and as a result tends to be drawn to inanimate objects. But she cannot substantiate this idea because she does not emphasize the spiritual, emotional aspect of her heroine, focusing too much on her sexual fetishism, her physicality. The justification of the monstrous character is not founded from an artistic and logical point of view, so the essence of the idea and the problem remains vague. As a result, Titane appears as the author’s subjective, non-universal story.
At the same time, Titane follows the tendency to erase the concepts of female and male from the vocabulary, trying to break down gender stereotypes. In one interview, Ducournau aggressively answers the question of who Alexia’s child is from: “It doesn’t matter. Man, woman, car—why do we need this determinism? I don’t want to be defined by my gender. Besides, gender is constantly undergoing metamorphosis today. I am a filmmaker, not a woman.”
Interestingly, while claiming this, the director contradicts herself in her film. To avoid punishment for her crimes, Alexia cuts her hair, dresses like a man, breaks her nose, and impersonates the son of a man named Vincent (Vincent Lindon), whose child went missing. And she does not speak so as not to give away her femininity. Because her voice would reveal her true nature, that is, a person cannot run away from their gender identity, abandon it completely, their biological nature does not allow it.
The adult Alexia is portrayed as an Antichrist. The author does her best to do so. Alexia not only tortures others, but also tortures herself, tormenting her body, tearing it apart, bleeding, and breaking her nose. There is too much blood and close-ups of the abuse of the human body in the film. Titane is not so much about the main character’s hatred of humans as it is a product of the director’s hatred of humanity, of her own femininity, of a fascist mindset. Speaking of hatred of femininity, in both Titane and Happening by Audrey Diwan, another French filmmaker, who won the Golden Lion Award at Venice 2021, the female protagonist tries to kill the baby in her womb by inserting sharp objects into her vagina. The female filmmakers place special emphasis on these actions of their characters; the bloody scenes shown in great detail are impossible to watch. Karin, one of the characters in Bergman’s Cries and Whispers (1972), also sticks a piece of glass into her vagina. But how, in what context is the scene shown? This scene is shown as an expression of Karin’s moral suffering, her sins and her protest against the hypocrisy of her environment, Bergman does not resort to unnecessary naturalism, but builds the story by giving it deep meaning aesthetically. But Diwan and Ducournau’s films are, as one smart film critic put it, textbooks for medical students, not art.
In the finale, Alexia gives birth, and it is unknown whether the creature she has with the car is human or a demon.
Titane is rabid feminism’s act of insult against art, pushing the audience into an aesthetic crisis.