Directed by Julia Ducournau
Starring Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
A university dorm provides the first chance for Justine (Garance Marillier) to live away from the strict regime of her parents. However the hazing rituals of the older students unleash a strange desire on the lifelong vegetarian, as she is forced to eat meat. Now a lingering craving exists in Justine, one that can be sated with meat, but may ultimately lead to her desiring a taste of something more ….human.
A stunning example of the power of visual poetry, Raw is coy with its message and storyline. For some this might be frustrating, as the film refuses to spoon feed the audience any easy answers. What it does do is lead them on an intensely emotive journey and hope that they can make up their own mind as to what is going on.
The basics of which are simple, as the pressures of university, living away from home for the first time, and the ritualistic hazing by the upper class breaks down Justine’s established identity and makes way for something new. Here Raw is a typical coming of age story set within the pressure pot environment that is first year university. In this way it explores rather a lot – peer pressure, body image, sexuality and identity. It does this in a rather visceral and energetic fashion, hammering home the point then moving on. Raw explores nothing in detail but rather uses that boundless enthusiasm to cover a wide range of topics without delving into anything in depth. Somehow this feels appropriate, as if everything is in a state of flux, and all of Justine’s life is in turmoil. All this is heightened by the boot-camp like initiation rituals designed to break down that old sense of self and rebuild something else.
However it is in the sense that something is supernaturally amiss that really makes Raw. This film is imbued with a constant feeling that everything is out of kilter, and the cause of it comes from something dark, primal, and other worldly. Justine’s desires are overwhelming and increasingly bestial in nature, especially as she begins to have cannibalistic cravings. Here Raw is unwilling to offer any clear cut explanations, no Rosetta stone to explain what exactly is amiss, rather just revel in its portrayal.
Garance Marillier manages to strike the perfect balance between clueless ingenue and crazed maenad, as the scene requires. Ella Rumpf as the more confident older sister, manages to bounce off Marillier quiet well, and allow the cracks to appear in her armour as their relationship gets stranger. Both give a grounding to the film, an emotional content in amongst the occasional gore.
Raw bursts on the screen like the freakish two headed baby of Croenenberg and Greenaway. A rich and heady text filled with portent, but enigmatic with its symbolism. A slow, yet rewarding body-horror, dripping in supernatural menace, without straying towards the realms of the ridiculous.