What’s Watts watching? French body horror Titane

Steven Watts

Image by Isabel Sperry

On Friday, I decided to drive 50 miles to the nearest theater showing the film Titane to see it on opening night, and it was well worth the trip. 

I had a chance to watch Julia Ducournau’s Raw (2016) earlier this year. I was a huge fan of Raw so I was already looking up her next project while the credits rolled. Since then, Titane has been one of my most anticipated movies of 2021.

Despite the offputting reactions, Titane helped Ducournau become the second ever female director to win the Palme d’Or, the highest prize at Cannes.  The Palme d’Or was introduced in 1955 by the festival’s organizing committee.

Titane is only the second feature directed by Ducournau. The French body horror film follows Alexia, a serial killer played by Agathe Rousselle, who gets pregnant after having sex with a car. Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, this film is just as bizarre as it sounds. 

A body horror film can be defined as a film genre in which the main feature is graphically depicted destruction or the degeneration of a human body.

I feel obligated to say that this movie is not for those with a weak stomach. In fact, Titane may be the most disgusting film I’ve ever seen. I even had to cover my eyes at one point during the screening. 

When shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was reported that one audience member fainted during the screening. It’s also rumored that ambulances were called to the Cannes Film Festival where multiple people had thrown up during the film. 

The tension in almost every scene is absolutely through the roof. There were a few moments during the film when I could feel my heart pounding as I anticipated what Alexia was going to do next. 

The theater was dead silent as a communal feeling of dread filled the air. The suspense of the movie was aided by the incredible soundtrack. The soundtrack added a cutthroat atmosphere that most scenes needed. 

There are quite a few absolutely gruesome scenes in the movie, and for the most part, everyone in this film has questionable values, and acts in morally ambiguous ways.The relationships that these characters create lead to some genuinely wholesome moments. I’m not going to say that you’ll leave the theater with a warm heart, but there was quite a bit of emotion in select scenes. 

The emotional scenes are furthered by the incredible performances of Agathe Rousselle and Vincent London. While the two give very different performances, both felt very authentic for their respective roles. 

The way this movie is shot is also breathtaking. Most of my favorite shots were handheld and the slightly uneven, yet still fluid movements of the camera were beautiful. The color palettes in each scene were perfectly crafted and many shots looked like they were works of art. There’s no doubt that Ducournau has an amazing eye for shot composition as well, with a lot of the framing adding layers to the moods and meanings of each scene. 

I did love this film and I’m not sure I can, in good conscience recommend it to anyone who is unfamiliar with arthouse horror. There’s a lot to unpack in this film and it will likely leave some  audiences slightly frustrated. 

My friends felt that their time was wasted watching such an absurd piece of filmmaking. That being said, if you’d like to take a risk in the next film you watch, Titane will certainly provide something original, absurd, and off putting. I have never seen a movie quite like it.