There are some movies I never want to watch a second time. Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist falls at the top of this list. Likewise, while one of the most provoking and numbing experiences I’ve had in a cinema, Ari Aster’s Hereditary is certainly not a film I’d sit through again. So as the end credits rolled, I bolted out of the theater into daylight.
Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winning feature Titane is yet another film that slips into that category.
While watching this film, my general state of being was scrunched in a tight squirm. At its core, Titane is about a young girl, Alexia, who has a titanium plate implanted into her skull after a car accident. Later in life, Alexia’s (Agathe Rousselle) attraction to cars, along with a series of crimes, propels her on the road as she looks to escape authorities. However, she comes into contact with a father whose son has been missing for ten years and, without any other option, assumes the role with silence and a cautious eye.
Grief and guilt are viciously explored in this film, and what captivated me most was how Ducournau captures her characters. The screenplay doesn’t spell out answers like they’re waiting at the tip of the tongue. Instead, it’s a film that’s open to interpretation and discourse. For example, as the camera follows Alexia through a car exhibit featuring half-dressed women grinding on cars, we lose track of our protagonist until she dances evocatively on the machine. It’s a scene so expertly choreographed, setting the tone so effectively while provoking the audience that I would watch it again (but that scene only!).
Titane is not for the faint-hearted. Sitting toward the front of the theater, I saw two people leave the theater. The film’s wonder is in the confidence that what Alexia has done and what she is going through is horrifying. Evil can be innate and discovered, but it can’t be wiped clean, nor should it be. It’s a monster, and punishment will be severe.