This is the year for non-traditional sex babies. With whatever madness is happening in Lamb and now the surreal and oddly poignant ending of Titane, babies are on the brain of some of the most creative voices making movies right now. Titane from the twisted but brilliant mind of Julia Ducournau, who gave us Raw, is a stunningly visual experience that is as painful and filthy as it is touching and moving. Yet, there is a beauty to the grotesquerie in Titane that few movies can attain.
I found myself thinking about an indy darling I saw as part of the years ago as part of the Chatanooga Film Fest strangely. Jumbo was a coming-of-age story about a young woman who fell in love with an amusement park ride. There is even a similar sexual encounter complete with sticky black ooze and a whole lot of feminine pleasure. However, while Jumbo was more fantasy, Titane takes a more horrorific approach with tearing skin, ripping flesh, and engine fluids flowing from places they never, ever should. It is an experience you won’t soon forget that burrows deep in your psyche until you are left wondering what you just watched and why you are so emotional about it. Here’s everything you need to know about Titane and that incredible ending.
In Titane, Alexia is first introduced as a young girl who gets in a car accident with her impatient father. As a result of the accident, she now has a titanium plate in her skull. After getting out of the hospital, she immediately hugs and kisses her family car. Flash forward twenty years, and she is a young woman who is deeply in love with the vehicle she dances provocatively with each night. She is part of a car show that features hot cars with equally hot women grinding it for cash. The cars and the girls have a following of sometimes too devoted fans who beg for autographs and not so politely demand physical affection. In between dancing gigs, she also is a serial killer who stabs her way through a pile of bodies with a knitting needle.
Likely what provoked all the extra killing was an unplanned pregnancy with her car lover. Because she is now wanted for murder, she skips town and pretends to be a missing young man named Adrien. She cuts her hair, brutally breaks her nose in just one of many hard-to-watch scenes, and viciously binds her breasts and stomach to pass as the other man. Adrien’s father, Vincent, wants so desperately for the return of his child he accepts Alexia. Despite everyone around him knowing something is wrong. As time goes by, the two form a wary trust and, later, a caring relationship built on mutual need and acceptance.
The ending of Titane
The question of Alexia’s pregnancy has many answers. We never see her have sex with anyone other than the car but life from objects shouldn’t be possible. Throughout Titane, there are clues that Alexia did not get pregnant by a human man. The baby appears to grow very quickly, and Alexia leaks all kinds of car fluids. By the time the baby is full-term, she has begun lactating oil and has rips in her stomach that emit a metallic glow. In the final act, Vincent, who has already accepted that she is not his Andrien but loves her like a child anyway, delivers Alexia’s baby. In the traumatic process, Alexia dies, and Vincent holds the baby with a titanium spine on his chest, vowing to love and care for him forever. It’s a powerful statement about unconditional love and trust. Here’s what the film could have been about.
As a metaphor for pregnancy by rape.
Since most of Titane is told from Alexia’s point of view, it is nearly impossible to discern reality from fiction. She is troubled, and the few glimpses into her family life before and after adulthood paint a picture of a child who wasn’t nurtured and did not receive any help for her mental condition. Her behavior in the car before the accident as a child smacks of stories people tell about neural atypical people. She has an obsession with automobiles, and she doesn’t like to be touched. It could also be just as likely be a coping mechanism for a father who abused her.
We did see her have rough sex with an automobile using every ounce of its hydraulics, but this could just as easily have been a protective hallucination to cover up an attack by a toxic fan or even her father all these years later. Since the young woman is so traumatized and obviously psychotic the truth could be all, some, or even none of these.
Pregnancy is scary and challenging. Our bodies don’t feel like our own anymore. In a real sense, we are growing an alien parasite that sucks all the energy right out of us. That’s not to say, pregnancy can’t also be wonderful and very rewarding, but pregnancy as horror tracks. There’s a long history of that, from Rosemary’s Baby to Ellen Ripley’s alien baby with a billion other examples unnamed. Alexia’s warped and destroyed body at the end is the way most women feel by the time they have carried a child nine months even if they don’t actually look like that.
Why is Alexia attracted to cars?
Although it is possible to claim her obsession started after the accident, her mimicking the sounds of the car engine accelerating and decelerating points to something different. She is a unique girl who grasped for attention and love when she couldn’t get it from her father. She was likely told she was weird and different all her life instead of being praised for her unique outlook or gifts. The ending is an affirmation that other isn’t bad. It can be beautiful if nurtured.
It is a strangely hopeful ending about the goodness that is still possible in humans if we embrace the monstrousness of the other. Like a differently-abled person is often overlooked as incapable or weird, Alexia and now her child is unique, and there is value in the special. People like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are examples of outwardly different but brilliant contributors to progress.
Titane is about unconditional love
After Alexia pretending to be Adrien moves in with lonely, loving Vincent, they circle each other warily, searching for an entry point. She is hiding a substantial growing secret, and he is cautiously optimistic that he can find love and purpose with Alexia. The two jab and parry, each trying the other’s defenses until they forge an uncomfortable but meaningful bond. She provides him the companionship he has longed for, while Vincent gives her the father figure she has always needed. Regardless of the cruel looks and verbal attacks she gets from Vincent’s fellow firemen, they form a family unit constructed over time brick by patient brick. They each need something from the other and both are transformed by the experience.
Death and rebirth
The Alexia that first kills several people and tries to abort her own baby, is not the same person she is at the end. Physically she is a bruised, torn mess of a vessel, but emotionally she has blossomed. Alexia dies at the end, but she died a changed person. She grew from the murderous monster she was into a softer, more caring individual. Her child, who was conceived from something taboo, also was born something new and hopeful. All babies offer hope that they will grow and change the world for the better. Likewise, parents hope that their children are a legacy they leave behind when they die.
This new child Vincent helps Alexia deliver is born from love regardless of how it was conceived. Alexia may have created and grew this baby inside her from a dark place, but she finally found love with Vincent, who never gave up. His constant affection allowed her to admit who and what she was finally. When the two admitted and accepted reality, the baby could be born into a new world full of hope and love that anything was possible. Even love from hate.
Just like Jumbo, love is a wonderful thing regardless of where it comes from and how ugly the process is. Alexia and Vincent need each other. They are both changed by the other’s love. Titane is a nasty bit of body horror encased in the loving arms of a capable parent. Ducournau gave birth to this gorgeous nightmare vision with her blood, sweat, and tears, just as Alexia delivered a stronger version of herself. Stream Titane everywhere you watch movies and prepare to embrace the beauty of the odd. It’s a painful but rewarding experience.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.