The Transgressive Theme of Titane

The Bodyhorror of Ducournau

Titane is a transgressive film with flesh yet literate, barbaric but brainless, and unsettling yet disgusting. It is the winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. In contrast, Julia Ducournau gives a witty push to the body horror genre. In such stares, she gave her protagonist, Alexia, the opportunity to have sex with a car to impregnate her. She seems to be asking critics who are driven by the imaginary such. However, it is also not a film because of the title.

It is not a film about mystical superpowers involving the femme fatale, film noir, as well as men. In such a case, she changes the idea. The film explores the image of a woman’s layers who makes love with a car as a surface. She also uses cannibalism as a metaphor for describing young adulthood’s lusts. In essence, Ducournau’s interest is in direct vanity as the basis. She investigates how malformations, needs, metals, and bodies exist at the layers of an individual.

The Themes of Titane

The story of Titane tells the transgressive story of Alexia, as mentioned at the beginning, having a car accident as a child due to her father’s carelessness. Due to the accident, Alexia’s head had to be implanted with titanium plates. In addition to working as a dancer, she also received harassment, forcing her to take revenge cruelly. After committing a crime, she became the most wanted person, ran away, and took various extreme ways to change her identity to eliminate her identity. At the last moment, fate brought her to a firefighter who lost his son ten years ago.

Once again, Ducournau, as writer and director from France who directed Raw, is back with the second installment of her extreme cinema. By triggering the audience’s senses of pain, she combines body horror by conveying her narrative through two points of view. The film directs the audience too close to the influence of provocation. Instead, she does such a direction with real progress until it reaches the second half with complete madness. Brutality alternates with plot control and introduces themes such as gender, found family, acceptance, birth, reincarnation, hope, and identity.

The Flesh

Titane is transgressive fantasy but disturbing. In a specific sequence, Alexia returns to the changing room of the car show to shower foamy sputum from her hair. She searched for the sound and found a lit Cadillac waiting, naked and still wet from the shower, and climbed inside to position herself on a stick. Alexia wrapped her arms around her seat belt, the car came to life, screwed her with the bouncing hydraulics, and found herself covered in bruises on her inner thighs. She removed the oil from her vagina until she found her stomach protruding and starting to growl. Alexia’s obsession with cars does not just stem from her accident. It is not also derived from the titanium in her head.

However, her perspective with mechanics or automotive is a traditional but unlikely relationship. She was obsessed with metal piercings and nipple flesh when making out with Justine in a comprehensive environment. By presenting the impetus of a sexual encounter between metal and flesh and violence, the film has just started its story with a series of bodies. In carrying out an act of vengeance on fire, the shrewd relationship between a father and daughter suggests a lot. However, it is not revealing any specs when it comes to vacancies. It is why Alexia finds herself attracted to inanimate objects, like Swallow, directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis.

The Progressive Messages

Although often touted as one of the best body horror films of 2021, Titane takes much inspiration. The film takes its inspiration, especially from famous body horror films such as Crash, directed by David Cronenberg. By taking a more progressive but meaningful approach, Ducournau raises the topic of femininity with brutality and violence from an automotive perspective. By offering the concept of acceptance and empathy, Alexia not only gave birth to children sex with Cadillac cars. It is not only a touching but a new moment in the history of filmmaking. However, it is the messages presented by Ducournau about how the audience does not only care whether Alexia is pregnant with a child from a car or a boy.

The most important is telling the story of turmoil, Alexia’s womanhood, and gender. The concept of motherhood does not only arise from whether such a term exists in a man or another gender. However, such an identity can be represented through other genders besides women. In essence, Alexia is the only thing it matters in the film, no matter how much empathy or hatred towards Alexia is suppressed.

The Fragility of Masculinity

In the first sequence introduced, Alexia is never comfortable with other people, especially boys. She was also uncomfortable with her family, considering what her father had done. Alexia is also not pleased with her environment and surroundings. In essence, she is brutal but violent when she feels threatened or provoked. In one scene, a rabid fan approached her and tried to harass her by forcibly kissing her so that Alexia killed him. She was disgusted because she had a kiss mark on her body at the beginning. While on the bus with a woman, a group of men indirectly sexually harassed her behind her back with inappropriate words.

In such a moment, she is in an environment where she is surrounded by men with fragile masculinities, given that Alexia is the only woman in the sequence. Disgusting stares begin when she does a strip dance when the context masculinity character does not know if Alexia is a girl on a fire truck. In essence, Ducournau represents an idea of how masculinity and its toxicity work from the point of view of the female protagonist, not only getting good self-acceptance from her about expression and identity but an uncomfortable feeling from reality in the first place.

The Transgressive of Titane

After all, are all the characters in the film evil? The answer is no. Alexia, who does not feel comfortable in her environment, can only get comfort. After using medical bandages to cover her breasts and hide her pregnant belly, she becomes a boy when she meets Vincent. Alexia could only trust Vincent, saying he did not care who Alexia was. In Vincent’s view, she will always be his child. Although the context explains how Vincent is just a father who cannot accept the past, it is a meeting point where Vincent is the only person he does not know but can give Alexia comfort and redemption without caring about what has been done.

By taking such a surprise, Titane perfectly illustrates a transgressive quality in pushing body horror into layers that are still rarely done by other directors. The film is far from provocative film criteria. It is a disgusting yet shocking image, regardless of its ability to “offer” the film. By playing real feelings and emotions explicitly, extraordinary, sweet, and sincere attention makes the film very inverse when it reaches the emotional ending, from Alexia’s motherhood figure, Vincent’s humanism, and the relationship between Alexia and Vincent’s son and father without blood relations.

The Intimate Transcendence

By crafting a dark transcendent intimate metamorphosis, Jim Williams helps to piece together the tone of Titane. Not only does he bring orchestral splendor to Raw, but he also blends a voice into scenes of body horror and violence. On the other hand, Ducournau has a way of shooting Alexia’s mean streak in her pregnant belly. In a specific scene, Alexia tries to have an abortion on herself. The sound design makes one even more nauseous. Gender, death, until birth, get a fundamental thematic about how gender labels are often perpetuated as a way of understanding the patriarchal power of the world.

Titane is a transgressive film that is original but complicated to classify. However, Ducournau tells her narrative singularly and ambitiously to make the audience fascinated, interested, crying, and angry from a human perspective. The indescribable beauty of the film strays, on the other hand, in embracing a taboo in art. Regardless of which, it is a first step in accepting such deviations in describing reality in art, especially filmmaking.


About the author

Salman Al Farisi is the owner of Calxylian and is an elitist who has enjoyed and studied various mediums. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2020 from the Haluoleo University, Indonesia, where he studied English Literature, Film Criticism, Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, and Literary Criticism. He lives in Kendari in his mom's basement, now unemployed and ghostwriter, life with his cats, and is looking for the future.

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