Julia Ducournau directs a disturbingly delicious feminist cannibal indie film
Barfing, fainting and disgusting are probably the words that people used to describe Raw when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year. Although some might say it is, for the most parts, it’s not the disgusting gore fest you might have heard of. Not to say that it isn’t all those things but this French horror film works on a much deeper level. Raw challenges society’s views of female sexuality and fills its story with rich symbolism all while eating raw flesh.
Abide by her parent’s strict veganism, Justine (Garance Marillier) isn’t prepared for the life that awaits her in vet school. While participating at an initiation, she is forced by her sister (Ella Rumpht) to eat a raw pig’s kidney. On one hand, this experience awakens in her a sexual liberation where she is finally free to explore her sexuality. But, on the other hand, it also unleashes an unquenchable thirst for raw meat.
From the movie’s opening scene, it establishes a sense of uncertainty and it manages to hold it until the end. Ducournau’s impressive direction is mostly the reason why the uncertain atmosphere is drawn to the end. The screeching score perfectly captures the feel of the film and the cinematography helps increase the sense of urgency throughout. Ducournau’s direction feels confident like she knows where she’s headed. The technicalities are what ultimately give life to this intricate social horror film.
Some say, a movie is only as strong as their lead and it’s not hard to buy into this saying when you first see Raw. Garrance Marillier gives a daring performance as the college freshman. Her sexually repressed and innocent nature doesn’t hint at what’s to come. Her behavior serves as a harsh contrast to Nait Oufella’s homosexual and promiscuous character. He also gives a strong performance as her roommate and nails everything Ducournau throws at him. However, he never steals the spotlight from Marillier. When her transformation comes, it’s horrifying to watch but her character’s complexity makes it worthwhile.
Raw‘s best quality is its striking originality. Ducournau layers a heavy dose of symbolism and plenty of tasty metaphors. The idea to use cannibalism as a means to explore female sexuality may seem odd and extremely sexist. However, Ducournau makes the comparison of sexuality and cannibalism work extremely well. Using Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) as the shocking sexual character at first before switching to Justine’s more shocking sexual development is a clever commentary on how our society views both sexualities. Even if Adrien is unapologetically sexual, nothing is more shocking than what Justine will ultimately do with her sexuality.
Not only does the film cleverly uses its character, but it also wisely uses its location. Some of the more disgusting imageries in Raw are from the animals in the veterinarian school. Dissections and dead animals fill most of the scenes, even going as far as showing Justine’s sister taking feces out of a cow’s anus. All these imageries, as disgusting as they may be, get compared to the sister, turning them into animals for exploring their sexuality.
Even if Raw seems to have too much symbolism on its plate, the ones that get your attention hit hard. It opens up the possibility of social horror along with Get Out and delivers its message loud and clear. It cleverly assembles a film filled with socially relevant symbolism while still giving its viewers an absorbing story and originality. Ducournau’s confident direction and eye for visuals bring Raw‘s gore fest to a much deeper level. It’s a not an easy watch but after Raw, you too will be craving for more from director Julia Ducournau.
Raw was released on March 10 and is now available on Video On Demand, iTunes, and Amazon Videos.