‘Titane’ and the Politics of Dancing
Titane is a complex film, one that doesn’t hold back in its portrayal of unconditional love. The bold and sometimes intense imagery of the human body put on display in the film is an unwavering/uncompromising vision. That is the vision of the director, Julia Ducournau. Released to critical acclaim and even winning the palm’d’or at the Cannes film Festival, Titane has finally had its U.S. Premiere at the Fantastic Fest Film Festival. This is where I had the pleasure of seeing the film for the first time. Ducournau made an appearance before and after the films screening, and fielded questions from the audience. Among the things discussed following the screening of the film were; parenthood, humanity, and the femininity of the infamous car of the film.
One discussion that stood out to me, and one that Ducournau seemed particularly passionate about, was the concept of dancing, and dance scenes in the film itself. See, while Titane has plenty of bold and shocking imagery, there is just as many scenes that feature dance sequences. Ranging from intense to very intimate, dancing plays a big part in the film. Any scene in Titane that has dancing seems to have huge significance to the the development of our characters in this story, particularly the two leads of the film.
Each dance scene is individually entrancing and even sometimes intoxicating in its own right. From the beginning car show to the other dance scenes strewn throughout the film. They are mesmerizing in their lighting, choreography, and camera work. Several of the dance scenes take place with the same group of people; that being a group of firefighters that Alexia takes shelter with at one point in the film. The dancing isn’t because that’s something that the firefighters love to do, director Julia Ducournau said after the screening of the film. Rather, its an outlet for the men to release pent up anger, emotions, and energy.
Dance in Titane is symbolic of peoples relationships in the film as well. Throughout the story, both Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) and Vincent (Vincent Lindon) have a complicated and odd relationship. Alexia refuses to have a dialogue with him most of the time, leading to their relationship being expressed through physical confrontation.
Its no wonder that Ducournau relied on dancing to express important emotional beats. Vincent tries to get Alexia to open up, and express his own vulnerability, with a dance as their first big struggle. Moreover, it is an intense interaction with Alexia not reciprocating the vulnerability. In a later scene, which is a mesmerizing and beautifully shot sequence, the firefighters are mellowed out, dancing together in a club.
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It’s in this sequence that Vincent is more mellowed out with his lower ranking companions. His character, once again vulnerable, is forced to confront a harsh reality. That being his relationship with Alexia, something that I won’t go into detail here in this feature. Finally, another dance scene in the same club shows Alexia reciprocate the same vulnerability that Vincent has been showing her, forming a bond of trust. The fact that all of this is translated through a series of exquisitely shot dance scenes is honestly incredible.
Titane, as said at the beginning of this feature, has a lot going on. The film is a layered work of art that isn’t for everybody. Ducournau and co. have taken a bold and shocking story and used it to put on display a level of vulnerability and compassion not quite seen in her previous work, Raw. The most intriguing part to me, personally, is that a film that has such shocking and sometimes disturbing imagery as this is so vulnerable. Moreover, that this vulnerability is translated through something like Dance.
Dancing is at the heart of some of Titane’s most mesmerizing, powerful character moments. There’s a beauty to the movements and character development without spoken word that the film captures so perfectly, that I think its something that deserves to be watched, even if just to watch a few firefighters get jiggy with it. – Ernesto Valenzuela
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