Published in Catalogue, 2017
Here is something that I learned about myself this week: if I happen across a description for a French film that includes the words “feminist” and “cannibal”, I will mark a night out in my diary for that film immediately. And despite the overtly hokey details that may have drawn gore aficionados to the screening of Raw (a sick bag on entry filled with gummy candy shaped like dismembered body parts, plastic strip curtains spattered with red paint at the entrance of the theatre), Raw proved to be one of the most masterful and rewarding film of its gruesome ilk that I have ever seen.
To be clear, this is not a film that I would recommend to anybody with an easily unsettled gut or anybody who reels at the sight of blood and flesh on screen. When a press release advertises a film with the word “cannibal” in the description, you take them at their word that the audience will not be walking out unscathed from the experience. Fingers and skulls are gnawed at, bloody corpses are depicted, and more than a few dead dogs are thrown in the mix for good measure.
Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, the film follows the story of Justine (Garance Marillier), a resolute vegetarian and socially-underdeveloped wunderkind as she navigates her first year of veterinary school. Amidst wordless, surreal scenes of hazing rituals, Justine is confronted with the challenge to eat a rabbit kidney and forced into the act by her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), a senior at the college who has evidently been alienated from her family for many years. The act of consuming this kidney sends Justine into a feverish spiral, piquing a desire to devour raw flesh, culminating in an insatiable craving for human meat.