Wednesday, October 6, 2021


We may all end up becoming romantically entangled with someone who is like our our mom or dad. If your father is as icy and apathetic as Alexia's, your dating pool may wither down to suitors who are more literally uncaring and cold. Her father's negligence ends with an accident, leaving Alexia with  a fractured skull. To save her life, the doctors must implant a metal plate to keep her skull together. With this steel communion, a piece of metal has saved Alexia's life; and in doing so, has shown her more empathy and compassion than her father would ever be capable of.

In her adult life, Alexia feels more comfortable grinding her ass on the hood of a car than she does interacting with other people. Men watch her with their jaws on the floor, but she is not dancing for anyone but herself. In the way that many people seek comfort in skin to skin contact with a lover, Alexia feels most safe with her skin pressed to metal. Metal is the only thing that has ever shown any regard for her well-being.

And just as the movie begins, she consummates her relationship with metal by crawling naked into the backseat of a car, tying herself down with seatbelts, and letting the car rattle and bump her to ecstasy. The next morning, she finds motor oil stains on her inner thighs, and a bulge forming in her belly. She is pregnant.

The only other human Alexia shows anything close to romantic interest in is Justine, a fellow dancer with a nipple piercing. In that, Alexia sees someone who has willingly chosen to merge their flesh with steel. The two engage sexually, and Alexia worships the breast, sucking and grabbing at it ceaselessly. Justine is pained and unnerved by this, ultimately alienating Alexia even further. She thought she had found someone like her, but Justine had come up short.

When Alexia finds someone lacking, she impales them in the head with a large metal spike that she uses as a hair pin. Her kills are not seemingly driven by passion, but more by a question: "Do you understand me now?" Once she has driven metal into her victim's skull, mirroring her emergency surgery as a child, she hopes they have a fuller picture of who she is, and hopes that it brings them the same comfort that it brought to her.

Eventually her murdering garners a bit too much attention, and Alexia can no longer afford to be herself anymore. In a bold twist in an already beyond bold film, Alexia shaves her head, breaks her nose, and ties down her swelling breasts and belly to pose as Adrien; a boy that has been missing for a decade. She turns herself in to the police under this guise. 

It is here that we meet Vincent, the missing boy's father, as he comes to the police station to identify his son. As soon as the shade goes up and Vincent lays his eyes on the disguised Alexia, actor Vincent Lindon shows us the full breadth of his character and he gives us a full understanding of his psychology with just one teary eyed look. Hours before the film tells us explicitly, we the audience understand that Vincent knows this is not his son, but to him it doesn't matter. A child is born to parents, they do not choose them. But now? This person has chosen him, this person, for some reason, wants to be his son, and Vincent is willing to welcome them with open arms, regardless of their motives.

From here Alexia, as Adrien, is forcefully ingratiated into Vincent's world. Vincent is the captain and eldest member of an emergency services squad. The squad is otherwise populated by supple and muscular young men, the next eldest probably not even in their 30's. Because of that, Vincent himself is a bit of an outcast, too. He is an older man on the decline, who desperately wants to fit in amongst the younger men that he reigns over. Alone in the station after hours, we see him fail to complete a pull-up, and fall to the ground in despair over it, screaming and flailing his arms like a petulant child.

In an effort to hold off the slow, natural deterioration of his body, each night Vincent injects himself with steroids, and in doing so, forms his own profane communion with metal, his syringe a reflection of Alexia's hairpin.

The bond that Alexia and Vincent share is as awkward and antagonistic as many boys' relationships with their fathers are. But beneath that uncomfortable exterior is a deep mutual love and understanding that is quite wholesome, despite the film's otherwise bloody and scummy trappings. Alexia has gained the compassionate father she never had, and Vincent has gained the child he thought he had lost forever.

The film culminates with Alexia giving birth to the spawn of the hot rod that had impregnated her, thick black motor oil spewing from her nipples and vagina. Alexia begins to die, and we discover that she was not exactly giving birth as much as she is emerging from a chrysalis; the baby boy she has given birth to has a metal plate in his head just like hers, and Vincent cradles the child with tears of happiness in his eyes. In the end, Alexia has truly transformed into a baby boy for Vincent to love and to care for.

These thoughts are very stream of consciousness, and so I hesitate to call this a review. This movie is so thematically dense and ripe with visual poetry that I feel like wrote so much, but probably missed 1000 different things. Titane is the best kind of film. It is the kind that haunts you, and gives you no easy answers. It rattles around in your brain, constantly begging to be given more consideration. Director Julia Ducournau's second feature film outing is no less impressive than her first, and solidifies her space among the pantheon of the most interesting filmmakers working today.