Inside ‘Titane’, the most exciting and engaging film of the year

DrWe are exposed to the flaws of the body, flaws that stimulate insecurity but reassure what we have in common, French director Julia Docornau She introduced her own elaborate vocabulary into the bloodstained body language of horror. The tearing of the skin and the ensuing scar tissue convey messages of her characters’ unseen inner wounds.

“I delve deeper into the flaws because that’s where humanity resides. That’s where we equal each other,” Docorno told The Daily Beast of New York City. “What I find incredibly endearing is that we spend our whole lives trying to prove that we’re perfect, that we’re self-confident and ready to handle anything. In my film I try to talk about what we don’t talk about, and show what we don’t usually show.”

Her first appearance in 2016 raw, where a veterinary student indulged in cannibalism sparked legendary tales of people who fainted and vomited at a screening of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival. Amid the controversy, the director’s reputation as an artist with a flair for elegant provocation has been cemented.

Now with her second year cinematic split Titanium, for whom she became the second woman to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Ducournau maintains her fascination with physical imperfections and shocking imagery, but lends her more philosophical flair. Stunningly dazzling, the most recent is a story of a usurped identity, unwanted pregnancy, sensitive machines, and patriarchal torment enveloped by the constant subversion of gender and gender.

Julia Docornau standing with the Palme d’Or for Titanium During the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 17, 2021 in Cannes, France.

Pascal Le Segretan/Getty Images

Convinced that our deep understanding of physical pain is the most honest entryway to empathy for others, even those of questionable morals, the director aims for the viewer to relate to the protagonist’s physical experience. TitaniumAlexia, a car model turned ruthless killer – without condoning her evil deeds.

“I’ll give you a stupid example. If you saw someone being stabbed in the hand, you wouldn’t have personally stabbed him in the hand, perhaps at all, but watch that you would have an immediate reaction of empathy in your body, as if it hurt you too. You know that thing we do. , like him Ugh, because we know it’s painful and yet you’ve never experienced it,” she explains. “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do in my business. It’s a way for me to empathize with characters who aren’t your usually likable characters.”

Searching for someone to play the Alexia/Adrien part (the other iteration of the character), Ducournau portrayed androgynous looks and wished to find a non-professional actor. At first, she and her casting director, Constance Demontoy, scanned Instagram, checking male and female profiles. This is how she encountered her baffling star Agatha Russell.

“You also have to understand that it’s very important for me to want to photograph someone, and that’s something you can’t really describe with words. You feel drawn, like you want to put the camera on that person and you want to photograph them from every angle. That’s how I felt when I saw her,” she notes.

However, a dose of skepticism remained because Russell had no previous credits. Multiple follow-up meetings were held to ensure that the young woman had acting potential beyond her ideal appearance, and if her disposition was consistent and beneficial to the director’s needs. Committed to seeing it all, Russell worked on her acting skills and body for about a year, training with a trainer to gain muscle, with a dancer to perfect routines, and with stunts specialists in preparation for violent sequences.

“When you’re faced with something so different from understanding it. I had a rough few days. The transformation was the hardest thing, because it was on my body, not just psychological development,” Russell says via Zoom. “My nose was broken, no eyebrows. I would look really weird, not really pretty. That was kind of a shock.”

While the implementation of visual effects was pivotal to building Ducournau’s world, particularly in the last throes of her crazy adventure, the use of prosthetics on set helped Russell live her character. Despite the time and difficulties with the tedious application of these tactile elements that add to the shooting process, the director prefers them because of the irreplaceable texture they impart on camera, resembling the unevenness of real leather.

“I’ve never been pregnant before. I don’t know how you feel, but when you have that fake belly sticking out to your side which actually replicates the actual weight of a pregnant belly, the way you move and your position changes,” the actress said for the first time. “You can’t sit in a chair normally. You almost have to lie down. Feeling very uncomfortable helped.”

You cannot sit in a chair normally. You almost have to lie down. Feeling very uncomfortable helped.

Conversely, for Vincent Lyndon, the veteran actor who plays a firefighter (also called Vincent) longing for his lost son, the transformation was not superficial. Docornau relied on his role to frame the film. The audience must be sure that the eternal love of his child blinds him into believing that Alexia is Adrien. Part of that hinged on the facade of brute force that conveyed his objection to aging. He needed a muscular build.

Lyndon underwent rigorous exercise for two years to carve his body with a chisel. As a man in his early 60s, the process had to be done incrementally – with an intense race to the finish line three months before the shooting. The director describes Vincent on screen asA golem with feet made of clay, an impressive mass of muscle that is supposed to be strong but will collapse at the slightest vibration,” Lyndon echoes his fatal ordeal.

“He and I, we share the same fear – the fear of death. We are afraid of death and maybe I, Vincent Lyndon, subconsciously wanted to do this part to work on my body. It’s my way of fighting against death, to look younger. My character and I have the same problem.” Alexia, the opposite is true. She is afraid to live because she no longer has any love,” Lyndon shares. “They are both completely lost, so when they meet, they rediscover what love is.”

Ducournau has her own opinion about what frightens Vincent in her muddled novels: “The main fear of this character, quite frankly, is to be useless. He wants to find a new purpose by shaping Alexia in his imagination, his reborn son, because that way he doesn’t have to He has to stop being a father,” she says.

Conscious from the start that Titanium Featuring minimal dialogue, in part because her main character must remain silent to protect her impersonation of Vincent’s son, Ducournau has put compassion into the pair’s physical interactions, which is essentially dance: a dialogue between bodies that provides instant connection. For Lyndon, periods of dancing were a psychological obstacle – since childhood, he was afraid of dancing, terrified of ridicule. let himself in Titanium was an editor.

“I discovered something about me that I didn’t know—something about freedom, about doing what you want at the time you wanted to do it, and without caring about the people watching—which was very important to me. In that moment something changed inside of me,” Lyndon advances. “I’ll be able to do things in movies that I’m so afraid of because I’ve been through that dance scene. I’m not kidding. Sometimes, a few hours in your life can really shock you and you’ll never forget it.”

Central to the development of the relationship between Vincent and Alexia (or Adrien in his eyes) is the moment mentioned above: watching the father-son couple jump gleefully to the music with a group of firefighters around them. According to Ducournau, this happens when they no longer live in a fantasy, lying to each other. They look at each other and smile, find the truth and see beyond the deception. Words will spoil this honest realization.

Later, another music-driven story shows how Ducournau plays with gender expectations. Anti-champion Alexia performs a sensual dance atop a grotesquely decorated muscle car, but when she repeats those movements appearing as a young man on a macho truck, onlookers avoid her with looks of disgust and embarrassment. The male gaze feels threatened when watching behaviors that they identify as feminine are propagated by the body they perceive as masculine.

Agathe Russell in Titanium


Ducournau built gender stereotypes into her characters—the hyper-gendered archetype and the distinctly male hero—and then destroyed them one by one, even swapping the traits we normally associate with one gender for a character of the opposite sex.

“What I want to show is that sex is a social construct that limits us as individuals and also limits the interactions we have with others, which means that it limits the way society works,” Docornu explains. “It’s about perfection. When she’s dancing on the truck, it’s a moment where she shows herself as totally complete — she’s Alexia and Adrien at the same time, and at the same time, not one of them. Gender is irrelevant by definition of identity.”

Alexia’s self-definition is in flux, not just in relation to being a woman or a man or neither, but in relation to her emotional arc. “Identity is something that is constantly changing. You know who you are and you go along with it, but you change all the time because things happen to you, life happens. That’s what happens to personality,” adds Russell. “Alexia is a difficult psychopath but she changes and learns as she is. It is as Tony Soprano says, ‘You live, and you learn. She lives and learns.’”

Continuing Transfiguration is the doctrine that Docornu adheres to. When considering how her businesses interact with each other, she points to Garance Marillier, an actress who has appeared in three of her directorial projects, always playing a character named Justine but transforming along the way. It’s Justin in her short film Carpentry, Justin post as captain in raw, and a supporting character also called Justin V Titanium.

Docornau sees her characters as mutations in herself. They come in different forms every time, but something essential from their previous versions remains. Reluctant to disclose details about the expiration Titanium– and for good reason – the director talked about how its meaning fits with the idea of ​​permanent renewal.

“For me, the last scene is another boom. It is a rebirth in a place where there is love, there is acceptance, and the question of sex is completely absorbed by this unconditional love,” says Docornu. “That’s the only thing that matters at this moment – for there to be life and for there to be a new world, a new kind of humanity.”


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