Justine is starting her studies at veterinary school, where her sister already studies. She is a lifelong vegetarian, as are her parents and her older sister, Alexia. After arriving we are thrown deep into the twin bastions of new starters at college; hazing rituals and partying hard. After reluctantly eating the raw rabbit kidney, Justine’s sheltered life so far starts to become a thing of the past.
Raw is written and directed by Julia Ducournau, her first feature film and at just 33 she shows a great deal of composure and ability in bringing this story to the screen in such style. Whilst all the buzz about this film has focused on the carnivorous aspect, this film is more about Justine’s coming of age, of finding her own way and of her transformation towards adulthood. The pacing of this film is just so well done; the development of Justine from innocent and unknowing through to exploring and testing the waters of choice, all the way to her craven, animalistic becoming.
I was particularly taken by the cinematography; it is a great looking film and, when combined with some amazing scenes and imagery, starting with the amazing opening of the film, the darkness that it often skirts and dips it’s toe into, before recoiling just as swiftly only to dip a bit further next time. It is hard not to describe this film using commonly used gastronomic terms but this is deliciously done, whetting the appetite for more. (I know, I’m sorry!). Some of the symbolism utilised in this makes so much sense when thinking back about it, it definitely deserves another watch. The main score by Jim Williams, which keeps returning throughout, is superbly creepy and imposing and definitely heightens the unfolding scenes on the screen. Oh, and I have a lot of respect for french rap music, there is just something about it that is so inventive and sounds fantastic. The scene with Justine dancing to Orties – Plus Putes que Toutes les Putes is an amazing.
Garance Marillier is simply superb as the transformative Justine. Innocence and talent to boot is pushed aside and hardly mentioned as this is more about her personal and social journey, showing her push her boundaries and explore what she is capable of and what she desires now that she is no longer at home. But alongside her, Ella Rumpf holds her own as the older, wiser and more experienced Alexia. Both are talents that I would welcome to see again. The sisterly bond portrayed throughout is really interesting. Even after their fallings out they still recognise that they are family, that they are together and you really feel that bond, that emotional connection between them. Justine’s only other friend, and room-mate, in this is Adrien played wonderfully well by Rabah Naït Oufella, showcasing the lengths he is going to to explore and experience and is a perfect contrast to Justine’s reserved lifestyle when she first arrives.
There is a really interesting interview in The Guardian with Julia Ducournau about this film. The buzz created with the people passing out/being sick at the TFF, only brought more notoriety to this film, when in essence, it doesn’t have that vibe at all. Yes, some of the scenes are a bit gross but nothing over the top.
Julia Ducournau has brought to life a fantastic tale of awakening and taboo, desire and the unthinkable in today’s society. It cannot be stressed how amazing this film is considering it is her debut feature length film. With the style and ability that she has handled this film it seems the future is bright for her. Her no nonsense attitude to dealing with quite heavy topics in an interesting way; coming of age, familial bonds, genes and heredity, body confidence, peer pressure, society norms. Not as disgusting as some would have you believe but there are moments that are hard to take, but this just adds to the tone of the film. The star of this film though is Garance’s Justine.
Once again it is left to non-mainstream cinema and smaller budgets to provide something untamed and unashamed to be classified 18 rather than pander to the mass markets. Proud of what it is and shows it as it should be. Raw is just that; visceral, provoking and totally worth watching.