In my eyes Julia Ducouranu could do no wrong after she stunned audiences with her 2016 debut film Raw. It was shocking, proactive and above all, memorable. It was a contemporary piece of art that I thought would stand the test of time, and almost 5 years later it’s seeming to do just that. It’s a film that I did not just adore, but I admired. But that was then, and this is now – up steps Titane.
Titane (Titanium): A metal highly resistant to heat and corrosion, with high tensile strength alloys, often used in medical prostheses due to its pronounced biocompatibility.
And that’s all you need to know.
Never has such a short description of a film felt more appropriate. I, like many others, didn’t know what to really expect from this film. Despite the odd review here and there, the occasional promotional still indicating it to be some neon-soaked-nightmare and the fact it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival, I knew absolutely nothing going into this picture.
I’m hesitant to go into too much detail with this film, part of the joy I had watching it was slowly discovering where in fact it was taking me. It’s exactly the film I thought it was going to be from the promotional material, yet it is so much more. Words fail me as I begin to fathom and try to put into words what this film is. So, if you bear with me, I shall try.
Flesh is temporary, metal is forever. The human body, sadly, is made up of decomposing flesh. Damageable, aging, and disgusting flesh. It’s craving change. It’s craving to be moulded into something everlasting, something we can finally be happy with. But we never are. It’s a film that strikes meaning into transformation, strikes meaning into who we are as humans. Are we much better or different to machines?
The theme of fire is almost as prevalent as machinery. Fire, much like a human, is born and burns quickly at both ends, devouring everything in its path. Sometimes overwhelming and beautiful, other times terrifying and deadly. You may wish to stare into the fire, but don’t be too surprised if it chooses to stare at you back. But eventually the fire is extinguished, killed, and what is left is mere ash and dust.
The film poses so many questions. Some it looks to answer, some it does not. We don’t get a hefty chunk of exposition, instead we are dropped into the proceedings rapidly. Instead, we must try to get our bearings on the situation, try to figure out the why, where and what. Too many films try to show you the entirety of the journey and hold your hand from start to finish, Ducournau, however, straps you in and expects you to be a willing participant to the journey ahead – because she is not slowing down for no one.
I found Raw, initially, a film easier to love. It’s more accessible, more contained, and easier to explain. Titane is hard to get into, sprawling and almost impossible to explain – but maybe that’s why it’s such a great sophomore effort. It’s a film only Ducouranu could make. A film that feels so intertwined with the filmmaker’s previous work that it starts to become an extension. Besides the lead actress from the previous film, Garance Marillier showing up playing a character with the same name as her character in Raw, there are multiple examples as to how these films work together in a perfect symbiotic relationship. Why the work of Ducournau is one of the most important horror and exciting directors working today. It’s not just cinema made to shock, it’s made to explore the human body and psyche in a way I haven’t seen done for years. It’s the deconstruction of ego, fetishism, and transformation. It’s the way that with both films she creates something not only memorable, but important.
This film was one of my most anticipated works of cinema this year. It did not disappoint.