Raw, the first feature from Parisian writer/director Julia Ducournau (after the short Junior and the TV movie Mange, which she states are also about transformation) has been getting some priceless publicity, with breathless talk of punters fainting and racing from cinemas in Germany and Sweden to throw up, but is it really that strong or sick?
Well, yes, provided you haven’t seen other cinematic cannibalism tales (everything from Alive to Silence Of The Lambs to Cannibal Holocaust) or refuse to admit that, like it or not, we’re really all just big lumps of meat.
A French/Belgian/Italian co-production known as Grave in France, this begins mysteriously with a car crash and then proceeds to introduce us to Justine (Garance Marillier), a supposed 16 year old from a strictly vegetarian family who’s on her way to study at an only-in-the-movies elite veterinary college. Immediately thrown into the chaos of hazing and partying (complete with what looks like a visual reference to Pasolini’s Salò), she hangs out with her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), endures being doused with fake blood, is forced to eat rabbit kidneys and develops both a painful-looking skin condition and an inexplicable primal hunger.
Contrasting a craving for meat with a craving for carnality in a way that few American movies dare (but European horror films love), we watch as Justine descends into a kind of madness, which leads to fevered attempts to seduce her roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) and a burning desire to bite someone. Yet, given the human-flesh-chomping that goes on here, it’s worth noting that the most shocking moment happens about midway through and doesn’t involve cannibalism, instead depicting a beauty ritual gone very wrong.
With a perverse interest in what goes into mouths and what comes out of them (damn that human condition!), Ducournau’s beautiful-looking if low-budget epic has been labelled feminist and seems to suggest that wanting to dine on your friends and family is an inescapable result of forced vegetarianism. If that’s the case then, mon dieu, we all need to eat more steak – and now!
Rated R. Raw is in cinemas now