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Titane: The Weirdest, Most Experimental Horror Movie Of 2021

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  • Posted on 01st Apr, 2022 07:26 AM
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The director of Raw created an almost violently unique horror experience and not nearly enough people have seen it.

p>Horror is simultaneously the genre that spits out some of the most disposable trash in the cinematic world and the venue by which creative visionaries critique reality through dreams. A piece of fiction dedicated to unnerving, disturbing, or threatening an audience can be carefully crafted to do much more.

Last year's Titane was written and directed by Julia Ducournau. It's her second feature after 2016's spectacular Raw. Like that film, Titane is an exploration of metaphor through the medium of extremely unpleasant visuals and disjointed off-kilter visual storytelling. Viewers with a weak constitution should avoid this film at all costs.

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Explaining the plot of Titane fails to capture most of what is interesting about it. It has a plot; stuff unquestionably happens in it, and it's intensely compelling. It's just that reading the events listed out rather than seeing them in context is like hearing someone describe a poem rather than reading it. It robs the material of its strength while giving the impression of having experienced it. Ideally, see the film with absolutely no further knowledge of what happens in it. It's an uncompromisingly violent, visually electric, genre-bending ride that grabs the audience by the throat and refuses to explain where it's going until it gets there. Every new thing a viewer learns about the plot or what happens in it before sitting down to watch weakens the experience. Anyone who liked Raw, or can handle the same type of visceral tone-poem unpleasantness should settle in for this one.

Titane stars Agathe Rousselle in her feature film debut. Rousselle has appeared in a few short films, but this is the most expansive cinematic project she's been involved with. She's better known as a journalist, co-founding the feminist magazine Peach. The other star of the project is Vincent Lindon, who is Rousselle's near-opposite. He's been in the French film industry for forty years, won several awards as a performer, and famously overdubbed Bryan Cranston in the French version of Isle of Dogs. Both of them are incredible in their role. They are giving 100% to every scene of this film, and the direction demands an incredible amount from them. It is an immense emotional undertaking, and a sub-par performance could have easily killed the film. The dialogue is sparse, most of the real work is raw physical acting, and it's stellar. Garance Marillier, star of Raw also appears in the film in a small, but important role.

Genre isn't really something worth worrying about during the runtime of Titane. It's gritty horror, pitch-black comedy, family drama, off-kilter romance, all in indefinable percentage chunks. The tone shifts with no warning, a calm scene can erupt into something violently unpleasant, just as a wide-awake nightmare can become a heartwarming moment. The humanity of the film is perhaps its most unnerving element; horrible things happen to decent people, confrontations devolve into awkward stand-offs, and every character is deeply flawed. There's a layer of relatability, even to monsters in vaguely human shapes, and that is what keeps the bizarre visuals within the realm of the unnervingly real. It's bracing, and by scratching both the disgusting body horror itch and front-loading emotional pain by the carload, it assaults the viewer from both sides. Making the film as violent as it is erotic as it is emotionally grim is a gambit, and it pays off.

Ultimately, this is a work of metaphor, and all the sex, blood, and metal are in service of its central theming. The film is working through difficult ideas of gender, violence, sexuality, parenthood, machinery, and, arguably transhumanism. It's approaching these ideas through the extremely personal journey of the lead character, an inexplicable person whose character traits scream horror movie villain. She evolves in bizarre ways throughout the narrative, but it makes sense on a purely emotional level. She's not the villain, but she is the source of the overwhelming majority of bad things that occur throughout the plot. She's a deeply flawed being, seemingly caught in a permanent period of metamorphosis and a never-ending emotional breaking point. The lead is the centerpiece, the world revolves around her, and she is immensely compelling as a character and as a symbol.

Titane can't be explained, it can only be experienced. It's intensely polarizing, almost anyone will know exactly where they stand on the film about twenty minutes in. One might argue that a film that inspires hate in a fair percentage of its audience would be doing something wrong, but at least it provokes a reaction. People can't help but feel something when they experience Titane, and that's why it's a project worth everyone's attention. Julia Ducournau's next project hasn't been announced yet, but with Raw and Titane down, it's hard to imagine where her imagination could take her next. Titane is currently available to stream on Hulu, and available for purchase on multiple platforms.

MORE: Titane Review

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