Due to the will power needed to resist the urge of walk out during the first thirty minutes, viewing Titane is a demanding experience. The choice of remaining seated however is rewarded by a more afffordable continuation, and the final impression left by the film is in all cases that it was an unique experience, even if not entirely enjoyable.
To describe Titane without spoiling its storyline is challenging. An italian newscast, unable to advertise the film otherwise, ended up spoiling a consistent part of the plot because a different approach would have been simply incomprehensible in a 30 seconds long report.
The first act of the film is fueled by gratuitous violence, not as splattery as to let the viewer accept it for its exageration, but gory enough to be extremely disturbing, to the point of striking fear whenever, later on, the main character has a pointy object in her whereabouts (even if, after a certain nose break, the gore ceases). This achieved sense of continuous peril does not however prove to be distracting from the subject of the film, which continuously transforms into something very different from what it was at the beginning. It is a shift from the cold and inhumane towards the more tender.
It would be tempting to deem the film an inherently incoherent mscallaneous of events. Truthfully, the film resists to be abscribed to any genre – body horror, thriller, even dark comedy – it rather borrows elements from all of these. The best way to interpret Titane is as a surreal film, with atmospheric similarities to Leos Carax or Nicholas Winding Refn, with which it shares the pleasure for divisive sequences.
Much as the entire film, the main character also escapes a true introspection that allows the viewer to really understand it. Agathe Rousselle’s androginous performance is impenetrable and undecipherable, as is the entire film, the idea being that she might have lost part of her humanity in the childhood accident that opens the film and leads her to have a Titane plaque on her skull (hence the title). Vincent Lindon’s character, a missed father, ends up much more intelligible and quite possibly more simple, but nonetheless more appealing.
Although surrealism does not demand any thematisation or coherent storytelling, Titane does in fact have a coherent theme. A good way to describe the film is as a gender and sexuality bending fantasy focused on a woman that penetrates a masculine world. The varied events provide a series of supernatural metaphors to various states of womanhood, unwanted pregnancy, inter-familial apathy, fetishisation, missed fatherhood.
It is not unconceivable that this film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Nonetheless, it is a dense, challenging viewing experience, definitely not a film that everyone can equally appreciate.
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