Director: Julia Ducournau
Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Words: Manon Peyralade
Julia Ducournau set the tone of her art with Junior, a short film depicting the physical metamorphosis of a young teenager. Staying on the same theme, Raw explores the difficulty and confusion of female sexuality for a young girl growing up and discovering life.
Advanced for her age, young student Justine enters Vet school, joining her older sister Alex. After a hazing ritual where she is forced to swallow a raw rabbit kidney, vegetarian Justine starts to experience strange physical symptoms as well as a growing attraction to meat.
The increasing of her urges for meat reach a climax when, after a freak accident, she eats her sister’s finger. Following this, Justine discovers that her sister is a cannibal.
The meaning behind Raw is often misunderstood as being about vegetarianism or animal rights: absolutely not. Here cannibalism could be seen as an allegory of lust, the urge for flesh, both literally and metaphorically.
Through her roommate Adrien, Justine will discover her first taste of meat (a kebab), and eventually her first sexual experience. During this particular scene in the film, we can see that Justine tries to bite him repeatedly, not able to resist his flesh. As the limit between her urges and her morals blur, she eventually bites herself instead.
In another scene where Alex causes a car crash in order to have a taste of the victim, we see that Justine can resist her urges, refusing to submit to them.
A strong script where characterization is clear and established: Justine is vegetarian, like both her parents. When at first it seems strict and controlling, it becomes clear at the end that they are vegetarians for a reason: the mother is revealed to be a cannibal as well. A “trait” that seems to be running on the female side of the family.
Throughout the whole film Justine struggles with pressure, with the way she was raised and her academic results. We can see the character grow in subtle ways throughout the film. For example, the first party of the hazing ritual is a chaotic mix of stranger bodies, loud music and animal behaviour. Justine learns to lose herself, and after training her seduction technique in front the mirror, these parties become a hunting ground, full of potential meat.
Julia Ducournau directed one of the best horror films of the year, one that mixes drama and horror – made by a woman, starring a strong female character. Not only a good horror film but also an important piece of French cinema.
Easily one of the films I loved the most in 2017, Raw is the beginning of a new era for French horror cinema.