It is that time of the year again. As the most prestigious film festivals around the globe come to a close, cinephiles have a chance to discover new auteurs stepping into the industry and catch up with their favorite directors’ latest work. I began my deep dive into the film festivals of 2021 with the Palme d’Or winner at Cannes: “Titane.” I did not know what to expect at all, since the official plot description explained very little about the movie. The only thing I knew about the movie was some vague Twitter comments accusing the movie of being too graphic.
I bought my ticket for the opening night without knowing what I was getting into. Considering that this was an “artsy European movie,” the theater was not crowded. There were maybe 30 other fellow cinephiles who were as clueless as I was when I walked in. The movie opens with a car accident followed by a very graphic surgery sequence. I am used to that. I’ve seen countless movies with graphic sequences. Then, we cut to several years later. Our protagonist, Alexis, played amazingly by Agatha Rouselle, is a stripper now. We follow her through a regular night which ends with her showering and chatting with other strippers. I am asking myself, “Is this really what ‘too graphic’ is? A surgery and some nudity?”
I reacted too early. After the shower scene, we see a stalker following our protagonist to her car. And then it begins. Our protagonist goes on one of the most insane murder sprees I have seen on screen. When I say murder spree, I don’t mean killing people by shooting bullets at them. I mean putting chairs in their mouths and sitting on them and sticking spears in one ear and seeing it come out from the other end. From that point on, nothing you see on the screen is normal. The movie becomes an emotional rollercoaster combining graphic action sequences with sentimental scenes that try to explore what it means to be a family. I don’t want to ruin the experience by revealing too many details, but I can say that there were multiple occasions where I couldn’t face the screen, instead squirming at the gruesome images. I was not alone—all the audience felt the same way as confirmed by their loud screams.
That is what I liked about “Titane.” Cinematically, there are lots of details worth discussing. The way it handles themes like transhumanism, family and love, the way it pays tribute to body horror legends like David Cronenberg and the way it uses visuals to create a completely immersive fantasy-like world are all great merits of the movie. But watching “Titane” is more of an active experience than following a story on screen. Julia Ducournau, the director, forces you to actively take part by making you feel extremely uncomfortable for the whole runtime. When the screen cuts to white and credits roll at the end, you feel a giant relief. The movie never fails to make you experience the emotional and physical pain on screen, a feat typically difficult to convey through film.
I recommend you go see “Titane.” You may like it, you may hate it, but I guarantee you’ll have an experience to remember. You can always watch a movie with an engaging story, there are thousands of them. But movies like “Titane,” movies that can make you physically feel something are really rare. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this amazing movie on the big screen while you can.