Titane & Lamb
Titane (2021) & Lamb (2021) 2-in-1 review
Titane is a French film from director Julia Ducournau following a serial killer who, after being impregnated by a car, is taken in by a man who believes she is his son. After premiering at Cannes Film Festival in July, the film was released in the US in early October.
Lamb is an Icelandic film from director Valdimar Jóhannsson following a married couple who end up taking in a strange newborn from one of the sheep on their farm. Lamb also had its premiere during Cannes Film Festival, with its US release coming only one week after Titane.
Both films received a warm welcome from critics and an understandable head tilt from audiences. So if you haven’t had the chance to dive into the odd world of foreign films this year, well these may or may not be ones you should keep an eye out for! (Depending on of course how those prior plot summaries sounded to you…)
Now before I get too deep in thoughts, I think it’s important to say that both of these films are very well made all-around! Lamb is from a first time director, which is- pretty wonderful! The visual style screams A24 in the best way possible, highlighting the film’s bleak tone set to the even bleaker Icelandic atmosphere. Meanwhile Julia Ducournau’s Titane is her second feature outing after 2016’s Raw (one of my favorite films released that year.) Titane might not look as stunning (and perfectly flat) as Lamb, but the style of second time collaborator Ruben Impens is plain and potent. The film has a more stylish and significantly grittier look, but both work for the wildly different tones in the two films.
I have also listened to the scores from Jim Williams (Titane) and Tóti Guðnason (Lamb), both of which are strong and fitting, but not particularly memorable on their own. This is actually a shame for Williams in particular, as his score from Raw was also one of my favorite scores of that year.
One of the largest contrasts between the two films is the direction. While Lamb focuses on a very subtle build, complete with reserved but telling performances, Titane is an absolutely insane ride that always feels more extroverted than the talent involved. That said, few characters in either film treat the subject material as extraordinary- which in itself shows the ability for these actors to meet the demands of the odd stories they are participating in.
You might expect Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason to play their characters realistically- and in a way they do. But looking at the complex reactions they have to the situation reveals much more about their characters than if you or I witnessed a lamb-baby. Similarly, Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon deliver performances that always scream more on the inside than they show. Does Vincent know that this killer is not his son, let alone is not a male? What drives Agatha? Both of these films know exactly how to bring out these answers in ways that engage the audience in the way the stories gently unravel the themes, and yeah- they work really well! (Lamb works better FYI.)
Now the thing I don’t love about Lamb is that it isn’t more. More of anything. The film is odd of course, but I’ve seen stranger from A24. The tone could be creepier or more emotional or an utter void of emotions- but it’s none of those things. It just is, and then it ends. It’s not bad, but it could definitely be better.
And Titane? I mean I was definitely more emotionally invested thanks to a few really great sequences, but it’s also hard to watch at times. It’s a lot to take in. Plus, while I appreciate the focus on character development, the film completely loses momentum in the second half. I would like to have seen more of the themes come back around, but instead, like Lamb, it just kinds ends.
So yeah, these films are really weird, very well made, but only somewhere between fine and good. I think Lamb is a better film overall, and the one I would rewatch over Titane. It’s not trying as hard, which oddly might work for it and against it? Either way, these aren’t bad if you know what you are getting in to. But I don’t think you need to rush to watch either. 6/10 for both.
So Titane and Lamb? Have you seen either of them? What did you think? Which did you like better? Be sure to leave a like and a comment below and let us know! Thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince