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CANNES 2021 Competition

Julia Ducournau, Vincent Lindon • Director of and actor in Titane

“For the first 25 minutes, you go: ‘Wait a minute, where am I?!’ And then, you just know – inside a love story”

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- CANNES 2021: In her competition entry, the French director introduces the oddest pairing since The Shape of Water

Julia Ducournau, Vincent Lindon  • Director of and actor in Titane

Shown in the Cannes main competition, Julia Ducournau’s Titane [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Julia Ducournau, Vincent Li…
film profile
]
didn’t leave anybody indifferent with its mixture of violence, cars shown as sex objects and a gentle affection that grows between Alexia, a killer on the run (Agathe Rousselle) with a titanium plate in her head, and a fireman (Vincent Lindon) who thinks she is actually his long-lost son, Adrien. We spoke to both Ducournau and Lindon to get the low-down on the movie.

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Cineuropa: Thinking about your previous film, Raw [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Julia Ducournau
film profile
]
[showing a young vegetarian suddenly developing a craving for flesh], you seem to be very interested in the body and all of the extreme changes it can undergo. How did you see it this time around?
Julia Ducournau:
This is what helps me create a link between the audience and my characters. The protagonist, Alexia, can appear morally reprehensible and completely unrelatable to us, and for good reason – she is a psychopath. The only means I could use, in order for us to follow her and make us go through whatever she is going through, was to make us feel what she feels. Also in her body. When you see pain on the screen and feel it as your own, it creates a really, really strong bond.

You can also see this pain in your character, Vincent – he seems so strong and manly, almost in that stereotypical sense, but there is fragility, too.
Vincent Lindon:
What I like about him, and the movie in general, is that men who are more “manly” are usually hiding their feminine side. He is a strong fireman, but I tried to approach him just like I would approach a female character. Someone very sensitive, who is completely lost, waiting to meet somebody – anybody. The first person he feels good with [which is Alexia], well, he just goes with it.

I love these characters that seem so powerful on the outside, and then inside, there is so much tenderness, sweetness and just humanity. The more preparation I did before the film, the more I was working out to build up my body, the more I felt like Agathe. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between her and me. She is Adrien, and I am Vincent Legrand, but to me, they are just two lost people. It’s an old story, one could say, as Julia’s films are always about the same subject: love.

It’s a story about love, but also about family. These two, they surely find refuge in each other. How did you see that unusual bond forming?
JD:
Creating this sense of unconditional love, this absolute love, that’s what I wanted to do. What I wanted to say, and to show, is that these people, who are certainly not determined to care for each other, not even determined to meet each other, can still find what they need. Actually, if they were to meet under different circumstances, maybe they would even kill each other? They are two titans, ready for battle. You are almost waiting for them to clash. And yet here they are, creating this new family, outside of all social bonds. I wanted to show that, actually, we can choose who we will become. As a person, but also in love.

VL: If I had only two seconds to say what I love about this movie, it would be this couple: it’s him and her, it’s him and him, it’s her and her. That’s it. I don’t care where they come from, what the colour of their skin is or what their gender is – it’s just two human beings, coming together. That’s stronger than anything else in the world. It’s the only thing I see in that movie. It was exactly the same with The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro. For the first 25 minutes, you go: “Wait a minute, where am I?!” And then, you just know – you are inside a love story. It’s all about love, and it’s the only thing I care about, too, also in my daily life. But what I liked the most was how Julia spoke about it because her voice is completely fresh and completely different. Very rock’n’roll, very weird, very special. When I finished the script, when I read the very last page, I called her and just said, “Yes, yes, yes” – right away. Also because it made me cry.

JD: There is this sentence by famous French writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who had a very special relationship with another French writer, Etienne de la Boétie. He used to say, when talking about their bond, which was absolutely intense as well: “If I am pressed to say why I loved him, I feel it can only be explained by replying: ‘Because it was he; because it was me’.” And that’s all there is to know.

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