Raw (2016)
July 9, 2017 5:36 AM - Subscribe

When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.

Chloe Roddick (Sight & Sound): "French writer-director Julia Ducournau’s extraordinary first feature is a heady, blood-soaked examination of femininity, sexual awakening and the sisterly bond."

Christy Lemire (RogerEbert.com): "“Raw” will make you curl up in a ball in your seat, daring to watch through splayed fingers—and not necessarily in response to the film’s violence. Ducournau pinpoints and expertly depicts the frights that exist in the everyday world—especially when you’re a young woman trying to figure out your place within it. That’s what’s so startling about the film: It’s not necessarily the monstrous moments that’ll shake you up, but rather the mundane ones."

MaryAnn Johanson (FlickFilosopher): "Cinema as a punch in the gut and not for the squeamish, casting female desire as ravenously predatory in a way that few films have ever had the audacity to do."

Julia Ducournau (interview in Little White Lies): "Just because I love horror movies, it doesn’t mean I think that my movie is one. Raw wasn’t written to scare people. To make them uneasy, to disturb them? Yes. But to scare them? No. I watch horror movies almost every day. It’s not a gorefest. If I had wanted to show only the gory moments of the girls eating bodies, I could have done that. My movie is more of a crossover between comedy-drama and body horror. I use different types of film grammar, so I don’t think it fits into one particular box. I don’t want people to expect scares because they’ll be disappointed."

Ducournau discusses 'Raw'.

Q&A with Ducournau at TIFF.

posted by sapagan (7 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this movie. Have seen it twice now and it's one of my favorites of 2017 so far. I'll click through the links (thanks sapagan!) and maybe add my two cents later.
posted by bigendian at 7:29 AM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

[Spoilers for the whole movie (obviously).]

After clicking through the articles and videos linked above, I'll admit that my take on the movie isn't the most original one, because I too saw Justine's cannibalism as an extension or metonymy of female desire.

I think it's a smart move by director Julia Ducournau to not offer up her preferred interpretation, as Raw contains various dichotomies (human - animal, vegetarian - meat-eater to an extreme, conformity - individualism, virginity - sexual maturity, etc.) that allow for different readings but can also be combined quite nicely.

I've described this movie to friends as a coming of age movie with some horror elements, and my reading of it is that Justine's sexual awakening cannot be detached from her simultaneous transformation into a cannibal*. To the outside world, she transgresses her human nature (or much more, what is expected from her as a (sixteen year old) woman) and becomes 'animalistic' by increasingly putting her desires on display. She escaped the controlled environment of her family home ("we are all vegetarians") and entered the equalizing world of a vet school, with all its hazing rituals, rules, tradition, and chants to be shouted in unison. Transgressions to regain ownership over one's identity must be punished, resulting ultimately in the shunning of Justine.

I don't even think it's necessary to read the cannibalism as sexual urges that are deviant from a constructed societal norm, although there is fun in that and the movie certainly lends itself to this interpretation as well**. It's probably completely sufficient for a (young) woman to rub people in power (be it her parents, the seniors at the vet school, the police arresting Alexia, or by extension, society at large) the wrong way if you defy your gender roles/expectations. If a male senior student orders you to "not come outside until you are green", it doesn't bode well to make your appointed male companion flee the room shouting, in the complementary color red.

All this makes the ending so wonderful. I admit I had to giggle the first time I watched the movie, because it felt a bit on the nose. But rewatching this scene, metaphorically, with this female desire/female agency theme as a lens, what better way to end this movie than to have the first, and literal, patriarch in Justine's life display the wounds an equally (sexually) transgressive/assertive woman left permanently on his, now disfigured, body.
The symbolism of that is just ...perfect.

(* Even though she doesn't fully commit herself to these urges, either? In comparison to her sister, Justine's 'snacks' are either from her own or her sister's body (With the minor exception of the yellow dude's lip). And I think there's a motive in that decision beyond keeping the protagonist relateable.)

(** Most explicitly expressed through the exchange of Justine and her room mate, shortly before they do it, in which he is curious whether Justine is into "S&M" or something "extreme like that" (I'm paraphrasing, sorry, I don't recall the exact words) and she replies with "It's bad." ("C'est grave"; with "Grave" being the French original title.) So either it's just a 'bad' sexual urge, or an urge for 'bad' sexuality...)

posted by bigendian at 6:37 PM on July 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

From what I have read, I am really looking forward to seeing this.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Had to digest a few days before typing up anything; I loved this movie very much, and it is, I think, one of my favorites of 2017 also. I'd perhaps argue with you, bigendian, about the ending being perfect for the movie. I was a bit let down by the obviousness of the direction it took. In fact, it would have been excellent without the ending. Why do we need such a resolution anyway? Why do we need such a straightforward path to think of this very strange and wonderful movie that preceded? Is this supposed to be acting as some kind of a metaphor for the fate of the whole human kind (born of another, not self-reproductive beings): how to find a "good solution" for the creeping otherness inside each of us? This seems like a too banal thing to do, surely. Or if it's just an explanation for Justine's eating habits, it's not needed; it's already clear that it's in the family, that it's somehow suppressed (vegetarianism) - for me, it was already over-explanation. Or did we just need to end on a striking image, a ravaged chest of the Father? In that case, too, the movie provided much more effective images.

But other than that, Raw is perhaps one of the most perfect debut features I've encountered, since it didn't seem to have anything superfluous about it. Every scene, every image was earned, necessary to the whole, and every image had an effect. Also the strange cinematic world that the movie built for itself was excellent. Ducournau said in one interview that she wanted the campus to have a more American feel and perhaps that had an effect that it didn't really feel like it was located in any specific place. But also the weird brutality and violence of the veterinarian college rendered it almost surreal and gave it a sense of "this couldn't possibly be an actual/real college". But on the other hand, the problems faced by the characters are very real and mundane, such as fitting in, making friends, discovering their sexuality, dealing with their desires, etc. So Raw's world is a strange, surreal place that is grounded in mundane issues of growing up, which is perhaps the part that makes it so unsettling. Familiar and strange at the same time.

Also, finally, Raw is incredibly beautiful. Even the most disturbing scenes are wonderful to watch and they're masterfully composed. So also my recognition to cinematographer Ruben Impens. Loved the look of the film. And overall. Thanks to the people who made it.
posted by sapagan at 7:16 AM on July 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not prepared to say intelligent things about it, because I saw it several months ago, but. YES. This was one of the best films I've seen in a long time.
posted by naju at 3:51 AM on July 14, 2017

I've described this movie to friends as a coming of age movie with some horror elements, my reading of it is that Justine's sexual awakening cannot be detached from her simultaneous transformation into a cannibal*. To the outside world, she transgresses her human nature (or much more, what is expected from her as a (sixteen year old) woman) and becomes 'animalistic' by increasingly putting her desires on display.

this and the rest of your comment makes it sound a lot like Ginger Snaps. which was also fantastic in its handling of extremely similar themes. I haven't seen this yet because usually I can't handle highly disgusting movies but if that's a reasonable comparison then I will get right on it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:10 PM on July 16, 2017

I just saw this, and yeah it's very good. In a way it's like a vampire coming of age movie. To be a modern civilized monster is to not have any social help, aside from your sibling who is also just making it up as they go along. The lead actress did an amazing job in a role that ranged from freshman nerd to like, drunk young Dracula.

I really liked the shot of the students crawling, and the architecture of the school. Or just the school itself as some aging headless institution. It's not camp; "Normal" humans and society are wtf weird.

One of my favorite little things is when the sister is being wheeled out of the hospital after having her finger sliced off in the bikini waxing incident that was starting to maybe be like The Fly -- the sister starts to make a nervous fingernail-biting gesture on the missing finger then switches to the other hand. It deflates some of the conflict between the sisters which is serious but also not, kinda like how sibling conflict is..
posted by fleacircus at 4:31 PM on December 10, 2018

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