Titane or the irrelevance of gender: a talk with Agathe Rousselle

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The winning film of the last Cannes Festival aroused interesting comments. Not only because of her status as a winner, but because of her disruptive vision of gender identity. The plot follows the journey of a woman who undergoes an impressive physical transformation throughout the film. A kind of metamorphosis that comes from an unusual pregnancy between human being and machine. Yet despite its horror elements, Titan -starring Agathe Rousselle–, is actually the starting point to erect a convulsive reflection on the irrelevance of gender.

David Cronenberg I’d probably be proud. Titansecond feature film by the director Julia Ducournau (Voracious), drinks from the best of body horrorr, a horror subgenre noted for its grotesque displays of physical and biological change. In turn, the film is also the story of a serial killer, but a deeper analysis could argue that it is a hymn that sings to the misfits and what they are willing to do to survive. In this panorama, important reflections about trans and gender identity appear, without much veil. And so, the film reaches heights of intention and meaning that spark debate.

Agathe Rousselle Titane

To play the central character, Ducournau chose the French debutante Agathe Rousselle, whose figure within the cast is significant: she is not only an actress, but also a journalist and model. Her work in journalism has focused primarily on putting emerging cultures and postmodern thought in the spotlight. Her participation in the magazine General Pop and her title as co-founder of the magazine peach They are testimony to it. Especially the second, since it is a feminist publication that is responsible for disseminating the artistic creation of women in various cultural industries.

Although he saves some participations in some short filmsTitan represents his histrionic and cinematographic debut. It is a wild role, which could well intimidate even the most experienced actresses. However, Rousselle was never afraid to step forward to take it. For the 33-year-old actress, the biggest attraction she saw at first was to get an absolute leading role in the director’s film Julia Ducournau. Actually, Agathe didn’t have to think about it for long after reading, in her words, the crazy and clever script of Titan.

“Taking this role made sense to me because I knew it would be a very physical job and I am a very physical person. But mainly because I would have the opportunity to work with this whole situation of the genre, which is something that I have dealt with all my life, “explained the actress. «Not three days ago someone said ‘sir’ to me. Happens to me all the time since I was a little girl. This is something that is very important to me and it made sense for many reasons.”

The film analyzes gender and sexuality from two different fronts. One is the unusual attraction that the protagonist has for cars, to the point of having sex with them. The other appears when the character must disguise herself as a man to survive in a world of men.

Agathe Rousselle Titane

“I feel like this film shows how the genre is no longer relevant today,” said Agathe Rousselle. “She uses gender to survive, not because she has an identity crisis. she is not a person trans Not at all. It’s just that the only way he finds to escape from the police is to impersonate this guy ».

However, the film does present a totally intentional identity crisis, since the director crosses different genres: the thriller follows a psychopath, while as a horror film art house shows a woman who gets pregnant from a car, with consequences as extreme as they are strange for her body. Agathe had to face the construction of a character that is not designed to be loved by the viewer.

“I had to find a way to love her,” Rousselle explained of Alexia, the lead. “Because she’s not an easy character to love and she has nothing to love. I had to find a way to get into it. I did it by personifying her. Trying to understand her loneliness and the fact that she doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. I can relate to those things. We have that in common. Of course, I am not a sociopath, a psychopath, or a murderer of people. But with certain things I can identify. I had to find that little door to her.”

Alexia’s journey in this film begins when she has a traffic accident as a child. Her head is hit so hard that doctors must fit a metal plate into her skull that will stay with her for life. Leaving the hospital, she walks over to her family car to hug and kiss him. That sentimental connection evolves to the present.

The subsequent scene shows the character of Agathe Rousselle through a sequence shot of almost 10 minutes. The space is a car show, where she works as an exotic dancer. She climbs onto the hood of an old Cadillac and dances on it with a multi-minute, uncut collection of erotic moves where Rousselle’s choreography and camera movement have to be perfect.

According to Rousselle, that was the most difficult scene she had to film. “I didn’t know we’d have to do it 34 times, but we did it,” she said. According to the actress, Ducournau is such a perfectionist filmmaker with such clear ideas that she, in the set There is no place for suggestions or those contributions that are not planned from the first moment of the script.

“In this film nothing came from me,” he admitted. «The choreography was designed by Doris Arnold, who is a dancer of pole danceand in Paris. All I did on this film was try to fit into the director’s vision. […] The preparation of the character was basically the director explaining her vision and me trying to fit into it.”

Julia Ducournau has shared in previous interviews that choosing the car for such a scene was an important task. To begin with because in his mind the “character” of the Cadillac has a female gender. The fact that this engine on wheels is capable of impregnating a human can be confusing to the viewer, as is the genre of the film itself. However, even if it looks like a thriller of horror, for Rousselle the story of Titan it is the journey of a misfit who does not find his place in the world, so it inevitably speaks to those viewers who seek to understand themselves. Especially to those who have a conflict caused by what we understand by gender.

“It’s hard to put a label on this movie, because it’s not horror. It is a rare piece. I know it’s not a horror movie because I can see it. It is a mixture of romance, love: it is something very deep. A rare piece. And that’s what makes it so strong and confusing to people when they see it because they don’t know how to label it. And I think it’s the same with people. That’s probably why people trans They have a hard time walking down the street. Because people can’t put a label on them and that’s provocative for a lot of people.”

Titan premiered in Mexican theaters last December. Although the film has practically left almost all the national billboards, it can already be seen on the platform of streaming MUBI.

The entry Titane or the irrelevance of gender: a chat with Agathe Rousselle was first published in Cine PREMIERE.

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