The real weakness of the film is its inability to explore Alexia as a person, keeping things vague while centering the extreme aspects of body horror.
Titanium is not a film for the faint of heart. Filled with violence and bodily horror as gruesome as it is bizarre, the film, written and directed by Julia Ducournau, has some intriguing themes, but its story is muddy and at times empty as it points in various directions. When he focuses on Agatha Rousselle’s Alexia and the lack of control she has over her own body, Titanium dig a little deeper. However, the real weakness of the film is its inability to explore Alexia as a person, keeping things vague while centering the extreme aspects of body horror.
Alexia (Rousselle) has a fascination with cars from an early age. Following an accident that leaves her with a titanium plate in her head, Alexia shows affection towards the car instead of being angry, kissing and hugging her after getting out of the car. ‘hospital. As an adult, Alexia is a dancer in a car show. After dancing on top of one of the cars one night, Alexia, who also killed several people, has sex with the vehicle and soon becomes pregnant. After a series of murders gone wrong, Alexia goes into hiding, breaking her nose and taping her pregnant breasts and belly in an attempt to impersonate Adrien, the son of fire chief Vincent (Vincent Lindon) who disappeared at the age of seven.
The movie can be hollow, not just in the story, but because it’s hard to grasp exactly what drives Alexia, a dancer who loves automobiles and is also a killer. She barely speaks throughout the film and she is so busy moving from place to place or hiding for fear of getting caught that the film bypasses the emotional contextualization that would have Titanium more cohesive and layered. Alexia has a distant relationship with her parents and her father seems put off by her behavior, although it’s easy to see that even he doesn’t know what to do with his daughter. To that end, Alexia is an enigma and the fact that the film relies on her lowest instincts can be frustrating, undermining her story and her character development. Titanium seems more interested in how far his story can go – how violent, horrible, strange, and excessive can it be before audiences are forced to look away? Too often, the film favors style over substance, engaging more in its bodily horror than in the interiority of its main character.
As the film gains momentum in its second half, the story doesn’t feel cohesive as it is pulled in different directions. Alexia as the murderer is barely explored and it’s hard to say why she’s starting out or the reasons for some of her cold-blooded murders. To some extent, however, the film is all about presenting a performance, whether it’s Alexia dancing erotically on top of a car or hiding and maiming her body to impersonate Adrien. It’s when Alexia escapes from her previous world and enters Vincent’s that the film really deepens. Alexia loses much of the freedom and control she once had, the lonely Vincent working very hard to make sure “Adrien” never leaves after having to live without her son for ten years. As Adrien, Alexia is forced to engage with men in a different way than during her days as a dancer. As a woman, men wanted to take ownership of her body, which is exemplified when she is aggressively followed and physically assaulted by a male admirer who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
In the role of Adrien, Alexia commanded a different level of attention which was no less related to her appearance. Vincent’s fellow firefighters watched for too long, made comments, and increased the level of discomfort Alexia felt. The only person his appearance didn’t matter was Vincent, who apparently wanted to stay under the illusion of Adrien’s return that he was willfully ignoring Alexia’s true appearance. To this end, Titanium is certainly related to gender dynamics and how Alexia’s body is viewed, controlled, and used in different spheres. The only thing that can be read out loud about Alexia is her feelings about her pregnancy; she doesn’t want to be pregnant and tries to terminate the pregnancy at various times without success, Ducournau showing, in yet another way, Alexia’s lack of control when it comes to making decisions about her body.
In such cases, of titanium the themes show through. However, the film isn’t balanced enough, wanting to tackle the gruesome body horror about character and story development. That makes it more of a show, especially in the first half, with the film leaning into its violence and style without letting audiences understand where Alexia is coming from. The eccentricities in the film, such as Alexia’s body leaking automotive fuel, might not appeal to everyone. And yet of titanium the biggest accomplishment might just be how ambitious he is, his use of shock value ultimately undermines the story he’s trying to tell.
Next: TIFF Review: I’m Your Man is Smart, Charming, and Deceptively Deep
Titanium has been playing since October 1, 2021. The film is 108 minutes long and is rated R for its high violence and disturbing material, graphic nudity, sexual content and language.
- Titanium (2021)Release date: 01 Oct 2021
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