Titane is a strange movie, relatively straightforward in plot, bluntly divisive in tone, and nearly opaque in meaning. And while it's not exactly a horror film, there is plenty of subtle yet squirm-inducing body horror here, so be warned.
The film opens with an unruly young girl named Alexia being injured in a horrible car accident, then having a titanium plate (titane in French) surgically implanted into her skull. We then jump forward several years to find Alexia all grown up and performing as a scantily-clad model at car shows. Newcomer Agathe Rouselle plays Alexia as an adult, and her mannish visage will soon prove crucial to the plot.
This isn't really a spoiler, since it happens so early in the film, but after a car show and a murder – did I mention that Alexia is also a serial killer? – our protagonist has passionate sexual intercourse with an automobile. That's right: she screws a car. And it soon becomes evident that the car has impregnated her.
What follows is kind of two films. The bulk of Titane is about Alexia, on the run from the law thanks to her string of murders, disguising herself as "Adrien", the long-missing son of a somber fire chief (Vincent Lindon), then bonding with him and his fire department. If it weren't for the fact that she is also slowly swelling with the automobile's child, Titane would be a reasonably realistic thriller about a gender impostor. But then we are occasionally reminded about that car baby, and Titane turns surreal again.
I'm sure Docournau, who also wrote the screenplay, knows what Titane is all about, although I couldn't quite grasp it myself. Not knowing anything about Docournau's life, I sense that the film is a weirdly personal one for her – perhaps a reflection of her attempts to understand men and masculinity. (The film spends a lot of time on this topic.) I'm not thoroughly convinced that there's much here for the rest of us, but Titane sure is an interesting experience, even if I don't care to see it again.