Julia Ducournau’s 2016 film, Raw, beautifully and disturbingly captures the emergence of a young teenage girl, Justine, as she balances her first year in college with her new-found love for human flesh. Unsurprisingly, Ducournau’s portrayal of cannibalism is extremely grotesque, with dozens of shots of dismembering, tearing-off, and biting at. I, myself, someone who is fond of horror films, couldn’t handle the gore and had to look away several times. Though this theme has been portrayed diversely in the cinematic film, Raw is unique. The Hannibal series and film portray the main character as a meticulous cannibal who plays smart, while The Santa Clarita Diet series puts a light spin on the whole cannibalism subject. Raw is unsettling in that its portrayal of cannibalism was irrational and animalistic, as implicated by all the dead animals in the veterinary school. It explores indulgences, not just for raw, human meat, but also for sex, alcohol, and other vices. It was a spin on addiction and how the more she tries to deny and abstain from her desire for meat, the more ravenous and voracious she becomes.
No one would think that a film on cannibalism would go hand-in-hand with the themes of coming-of-age, sexuality, and empowerment, but again, Raw impresses the audience and critics by doing just so. You can easily compare how different post-carnivorous Justine is to when she had just entered school. She was a vegetarian and a virgin. Timid, afraid. But as the movie progresses, we see how she starts to explore sexuality and discover who she is. She became more certain and controlled of her actions. Beneath its surface, Raw successfully tackles a young woman realizing who she is and what she wants, albeit, the answer to these are rather extreme and grotesque, like well… cannibalism and raw, human flesh. The director herself, Julia Ducournau, is a celebration of female power. For her directoral debut, she breaks boundaries and shatters glass ceiling by directing a horror film, an incredible one at that—a feat considering how male-dominated the field has become.
The plot of the movie itself started of very confusing. I was confused as to how all of this happened to her suddenly. Not to mention, how weird her school is. What kind of veterinary school initiates their freshmen by dousing them in cow blood and forcing them to eat raw rabbit kidney? This question is never really answered throughout the film, but we slowly start to realize what is happening to Justine, especially when we see her sister do the same things. Towards the end, we are sure now, this is genetic, and the parents knew this would happen. The audience is then left with many ethical and methodological questions, why would the parents let their daughters go to the same school knowing that this would be the outcome? Should the parents have let them know about this inevitable future of theirs beforehand, or let them figure out a solution as they go along? Nonetheless, the film ends on a hopeful note, Justine still has a lot to learn about herself, but she’ll figure it out and be saved.