‘Raw’ – Gripping And Gruesome But Not Horror! | Film Review
When Raw first premiered at Cannes last May, reporters took pleasure in reporting news about people vomiting and fainting amongst the audience. The Nuart Theater in Los Angeles even handed out “custom-made” barf bags to attendees at screenings. The emotionally gripping film has finally made it to the UK and it is deliciously gruesome!
Julia Ducournau‘s directorial debut follows a young vegetarian undergoing carnivorous hazing rituals at her new vet school while slowly developing a craving for meat.
Following in the footsteps of her entire family, Justine is a vegetarian and about to attend the very same vet school. Her serious lack of personality is only the tip of the story. Justine does not drink, dance, shave or have sex. She is a kid, fresh out of high school.
From the very first night, Justine is subjected to hazing. Covered in pig’s blood and forced-fed a rabbit kidney, she catches a massive rash all over her body. Her body seems to be rejecting all traces of meat, or is it the very idea of growing up?
Together with her male roommate, Adrien, and her rebellious sister, Justine goes from chilling animal dissections to frantic parties, slowly discovering her body and developing a craving for human flesh.
All senses awake as Justine strive to win her right of passage to adulthood and stirs up her sexual appetite. In a most sensual scene, during yet another hazing ritual, Justine, covered in yellow paint, must fondle her blue painted classmate, until they merge into a unified green. The sight of flesh, the taste of blood, even the smell of Adrien’s sweaty body, it all becomes too intoxicating for her, she bites.
Many critiques referred to the film as feminist and it is true that as the main character is a young girl, there is an emphasis on the female body. But the film is really about youth and the struggle to understand why your body is changing while being constantly scrutinized. Hazing, shaming and sexual discrimination are a few of the universal issues Ducournau’s raises in Raw. Young men and women in Raw are desperately trying to fit in a world that find them unfit.
Justine’s roommate says he is gay and yet sleeps with women. Her sister has abandoned her belief (vegetarianism) in order to fit in and yet still struggles with her own cannibalism, she faints at the sight of her missing finger.
In the midst of such morbidity, nurses are unfazed, teachers deceptive and parents oblivious. And when Justine and her sister finally commit the ultimate crime, there is no one to stop them. Justine yells at the lifeless corpse of Adrien. He should have yelled, he should have stopped her.
Ducournau emphasizes the body as the camera lingers on body parts while characters say very little. Youth is the time in which the body makes the most changes and starts talking. When Justine vomits or has a rash, she does not need to explain, her body does it for her. It is saying there is something wrong. The same body will scream envy, craving and desire as Justine desperately tries to fit in.
The powerful music by Jim Williams, brings all of it together. Williams mixes violin, piano and acoustic to create a serene score, creating an almost ceremonial and religious feel.
Raw is bizarre, intense and borderline gruesome but there is nothing scary about it. On the contrary, Ducournau paints a horribly honest portrait of youth culture.
When interviewed, Ducournau admitted her goal was to make audiences have a physical reaction: “Then you have shared something with your neighbor in the cinema”. Spectacular job!
Going past the cannibalism and recalling the remote feeling of being awkward, confused, misunderstood and… raw.
Raw, directed by Julia Ducournau, stares Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf and Rabah Nait Oufella. It was released in the UK on April 7th.
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