More Than a Thriller
Film review of Julia Ducournau's "Titane"
Lisa Marie Soulier
“Titane”, the 2021 French film and award winning thriller, directed by Julia Ducournau, leaves its viewers divided. I remember seeing old people running out of the theatre because of how shocked they were, but I’ll have to be frank: I loved this film. I don’t know what annoys me the most between people judging it without having watched it themselves, or people complaining that “it was bad”, without backing up their opinion. If that is all you can say about it, watch it again.
A series of crimes, a strange woman, a boy gone missing, and a desperate father. Titane is simply not a movie you can summarize without giving spoilers. Ducournau, only in the second film of her career, manages to build up tension that causes the viewers to expect a terrible turn from the simplest action. She has transformed the “casual” violent scene into a sort of vicious sadism. That’s not all! She even gives a lighter side to the film: the characters are weirdly endearing, the music is well chosen, and there is a certain comedic side in certain scenes, breaking the tension.
How come it won a Palme d’Or if it is so shocking? Well, not only did Ducournau manage to make the story interesting and well-paced, but the film went beyond that, providing great music, sound design, characters, colors, and references worthy of a full-length analysis on each element. Her unique work is showing through and through, giving the viewer an even more immersive experience.
With her first film Grave, she shocked audiences, but she decided to go on, keeping her ambitious style intact. She did not conform to the critics’ suggestions, who claimed that her work was too violent for the public. She stayed unique, making her an even stronger filmmaker to this day. With a certain satisfying provocation, Ducournau gives us a film that breaks barriers in cinema, without going too far and showing off. She gives each character a life of their own, with, at its center, the main character, Alexia. Exploring jealousy, lies and love, Ducournau develops a complicated relationship between two lost souls in a desperate need of something to hold on to.
She also gives us something to think about throughout the film by making certain characters’ motivations ambiguous. There is no longer the “good” or the “bad” in the viewers’ mind: it is all mixed up, making it difficult to hate a character. As long as their intentions stay cryptic, we cannot know what to think of them, making each of their actions even more important. We keep trying to make up our minds about them, but not in a frustrating way, since Ducournau manages our anticipation well, paying in the end.
During the representations, it has been observed by many that men tend to leave the room in the first thirty minutes, while women tend to be more troubled in the second half of it. I can only say that this makes sense, since the first thirty minutes contain violence that is more shocking to the general public, focusing on the human body. The second half focuses on the female body specifically. It is simply impossible to be more precise without spoiling, but if you are easily shocked by the horror of the human body, beware, since Body Horror has been a great inspiration of Ducournau towards the making of her film. She uses humans, instead of objects, to display sadism and brutality in its most raw form, making the viewers literally feel what they are seeing.
I will finish this critique by saying that I believe there is much more to be said about this film, such as its inspirational style, the queer representation, the sexual liberties, Feminism, and much more. If you are in the mood for a shocking but beautiful film, I would recommend Titane without hesitation, since I do believe it will still be talked about for many years from now. Why miss such an opportunity as telling future cinephiles that you watched Titane on the big screen?