“Titane” is a 2021 drama film written and directed by Julia Ducournau. It is the second feature-length film by Ducournau, who won the FIPRESCI prize in the “parallel sections” category at the Cannes Film Festival for her feature film debut “Raw” (2016).
Set in France, it depicts a strange relationship between two persons: Alexia (Agathe Rousselle), a woman with a titanium plate embedded in her skull following a childhood car accident, and Vincent (Vincent Lindon), a lonely firefighter captain whose son went missing ten years before.
It is a French-Belgian co-production. 108 minutes.
“Titane” is a strange film, which is a crime thriller film about a serial killer, a body horror film about a hybridization between human and machine (motor vehicle), and it is also a moving drama about a pure love.
Alexia, who has a sexual preoccupation with motor vehicles, works as a dancer at an underground motor show, living with her parents. She is also a brutal serial killer.
Alexia becomes pregnant after having sex with a car. Motor oil begins secreting from her vagina.
She is wanted for murder, and escapes.
Alexia finds that Adrien Legrand, a young boy who had disappeared ten years before, at age seven, looks like her. She poses as Adrien and starts living with Adrien’s father Vincent. Vincent treats Alexia as his son.
Alexia starts to feel affection for Vincent, and Vincent also gives love to Alexia, knowing that she is not his son. They love each other unconditionally.
The film “Titane” depicts the female protagonist’s physical transformation in the form of the body horror film. In the latter half, the film changesis into a moving drama about a pure love between the two persons, Alexia and Vincent, who are biologically unrelated.
Like her past works, this film is also driven by Ducournau’s obsession with physicality, i.e., materiality of human body which cannot be controlled by mind.
The subjects of the film, such as sexual fetishism of motor vehicles as a form of objectophilia or mechanophilia, and the fusion of human and machine, show the influence of the novel “Crash” (1973) by J. G. Ballard, which dealt with the sexual fetishism of auto crash, and its film adaptation (1996) directed by David Cronenberg.
The motif of metalized human bodies are reminiscent of the film “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” (1989) directed by Shinya Tsukamoto.
In the last scene, in which Alexia gives birth to a baby like a fusion of human and machine, J. S. Bach’s “St Matthew Passion” conducted by Karl Richter (1958) enhances its religious and solemn atmosphere.
The film had its world premiere at the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival in 2021, and won the Palme d’Or.
Synopsis (Spoiler Alert)
When she was a girl, Alexia injured her head in a car accident, and a titanium plate was embedded in her right temporal bone. She has had a sexual preoccupation with motor vehicles since then.
After reaching adulthood, Alexia works as a dancer at an underground motor show, living with her parents.
One night, Alexia performs an erotic dance at a motor show. When she is going to go home, a male fan makes a pass at her and forcibly kisses her. She uses her metal hairpin to stab him to death. Then, the car (lowrider) she modeled with at the motor show approaches her by itself. She has sex with the car.
The news about a serial killer, who has murdered several men and women in the past few months, has been reported on TV.
Alexia attends a house party, where she has sex with her coworker Justine (Garance Marillier).
In the bathroom, Alexia finds that motor oil is secreting from her vagina. She gets a positive for a pregnancy test. She tries to perform an abortion, using her hairpin, but fails.
Alexia kills Justine and two other guests. She returns home and burns a bloodied blanket. The fire spreads to the house. She locks her parents in their bedroom and escapes. She is wanted for murder.
Alexia finds that Adrien Legrand, a young boy who had disappeared ten years before, at age seven, looks like her. She pretends to be Adrien by cutting her hair, putting tape on her breasts and pregnant belly, and breaking her own nose.
Alexia goes to the police and claims that she is Adrien. The police introduce Alexia to Vincent, who is Adrien’s father and the captain of a fire station. The police suggest to Vincent to do a DNA test, but he refuses it and takes Alexia home with him, recognizing her as his son.
Vincent makes Alexia work as a trainee firefighter in his fire station. Alexia keeps pretending to be Adrien, not speaking a word.
One day, Vincent makes Alexia perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on an elderly woman, and he teaches Alexa the rhythm of cardiac massage, singing the dance song “Macarena” (1993) by Spanish pop duo Los del Río.
One of the firefighters, Rayane (Laïs Salameh) finds that the captain’s son Adrien looks like the wanted person. He tries to talk to Vincent about Adrien’s identity, but Vincent tells him to never speak of his son.
Vincent has tried to preserve his body strength by injecting steroids into his aging body, but he cannot prevent his physical decline.
Alexia considers escaping from the fire station because she has difficulty continuing to act as Adrien in front of Vincent. However, she decides to stay with him after discovering that he nearly dies of arrhythmia from a steroid overdose.
Vincent’s ex-wife, who has lived separately from Vincent for a long time, comes to see her “son”. She finds that Alexia is not her son Adrien after discovering Alexia’s female body during pregnancy, but she asks Alexia to take care of Vincent.
Though Vincent has been aware that Alexia is a woman and she is not his son, he keeps treating her as his son, telling her that “whoever you are, you are my son.”
At a party at the fire station, the firefighters urge Alexia to dance to the music, but they are confused by Alexia who performs an erotic dance on a fire truck. After the party, Alexia has sex with a fire truck.
Alexia is going to give birth. She reveals her real name to Vincent, and Vincent helps Alexia give birth. Vincent delivers a baby with an exposed titanium backbone. Alexia dies. Vincent says repeatedly to the baby, “I’m here.”