Review: Titane

Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, a serial killer on the run hides in the guise of a father’s long lost son. Starring: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Bertrand Bonello, Garance Marillier, Lais Salameh, Myriem Akheddiou, Dominique Frot and Lamine Cissokho.

Titane is a film not much like anything you’ve seen before, but it’s exactly the type of feature you’d expect from the filmmaker behind Raw. Julia Ducournau has kicked things into high gear after a five year wait, and is back with yet another feature to make you delightfully uncomfortable. It’s safe to say Titane doesn’t just go off the rails, it dives from them into a hypnotic world of violence, deception and extraordinary darkness. Describing the path that this story takes is incredibly difficult but you could potentially boil it down to a controlled insanity. Every time you think it has reached its peak of discomfort, violence or audacity, it goes further but it’s also phenomenally balanced with a humour, a strange kind of warmth and a sheer unrelenting confidence. It walks the thinnest of lines, its nose is pressing up against it, making you think it’s going to truly cross that line but never does. Although admittedly for anyone with delicate sensibilities, it probably crosses it a million times over.

It’s not a film for the faint hearted, as it is sheerly brutal, and another classic example of where you want to look away, you know what’s coming and you know it’s not going to be pleasant but you just simply can’t. The unique brilliance of this story is then accentuated beautifully by Ducournau’s direction, it has an intense use of colour that might hark back to Neon Demon for Nicolas Winding Refn fans. It’s quite a steep departure for cinematographer Ruben Impens, although having worked on Raw, this is another world from his more recent credits of The Beautiful Boy and The Mustang. While those are both visually great films, Titane is on another level with a texture that holds both a grit and a sleekness, a stylish yet utterly raw quality.

The deep, unrelenting darkness it holds is personified by Agathe Rousselle, she effortlessly brings the sinister edge of Alexia. It’s hard to believe this is a debut feature performance as she brings an experienced presence. It’s incredible that after every sordid, violent action you watch this character commit, you can’t help but to still like her and be genuinely invested in her strive for safety inside her chaotic existence. Vincent Lindon gives a complex portrayal of a father forever in limbo for his lost son, grappling onto hope whatever form it comes in. It’s lovely to see Garance Marillier appearing in another project from Ducournau after her stellar appearance in Raw. It may be brief but she’s a great addition regardless.

One person to be definitively not forgotten when talking about this cast, even if his role only lasts a couple of minutes is Lamine Cissokho. The scene he’s involved with is absolutely brilliant and he stands out like an adorable, sweet teddy bear among violence and carnage, it’s such a beautiful clashing of tones. He pulls off this half-asleep, open and trusting persona, which is one of several touching moments throughout the film but a particularly memorable one.

There are still a few weak points, some avenues are left unexplored, as well as some scenes which run slightly long. One in particular, involving dancing, runs on ten times longer than it needed to, to make its point and becomes slightly confusing of what it was ultimately trying to achieve. The ending is also not the cleanest of transitions, it will leave people with quite a few questions and likely be more satisfying for some than others.

Titane is truly unique, genuinely unpredictable, ridiculously uncomfortable but also funny, satisfying and beautifully unforgiving. A stellar performance from Agathe Rousselle leads this film with a thrilling confidence, portraying a terrible person who’s terribly enjoyable to watch. It’s not hugely accessible to a wider audience as it has such a specifically strong, violent tone but for those who enjoy discomfort and delightfully strange in cinema, it may be your new favourite film.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½

Reviewed as part of London Film Festival 2021

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