Ironically, a film about cannibalism is hardly the weirdest film I have seen in this class thus far. Unironically, it was also the most interesting, captivating its audience all throughout with its simple yet compelling storyline, inciting conflict (at least in me) to watch more due to the nature of such carnal and raw scenes, making me want to look away but refusing to allow me to.
Raw is a film that beautifully encapsulates a young woman’s journey into becoming – almost like a coming-of-age film on steroids. The entry into college, where most of the youth are ultimately thought to learn of their identity by their integration into the entry point of the real world, highlighted by the initiation sequence the film revolves around, was a clever way to analogise the concept of the main character’s emerging discovery of her true nature. While the film begins with what simply looks like a college initiation, quickly turns to a film that thrives on keeping its viewers lured in through its gory scenes of animals and blood, and intimate, more sexual and abjectly explicit renderings of human and student interaction. The film explores themes of human sexuality and the awakening of previously repressed desires – the awakening of the most raw, carnal human being at its most animalistic. The main character quickly becomes almost primal in her desire for human flesh to simultaneously satisfy and carnal appetites. The films rendering of raw and intimate human moments (close-up scenes of kissing, sex, naked bodies, masturbation, and ultimately the devouring of actual flesh) all contribute to the central tone of the film as one that refuses to hold back, with no rendering for the concepts of taboo and without regard for the viewers’ feelings.
A lot of the scenes were obviously quite uncomfortable to watch, however the film excelled at keeping us locked in either way – a difficult task, all things considered.
A question the film raised was that of freedom – who is more free, Justine or Alexia? One who is free in the objective sense yet having to hide her identity, or Alexia, who is literally imprisoned, yet free and without restriction to embracing who she truly is? In this sense, I believe it is Alexia. In the few scenes we see of her at the end of the film in the facility, despite being physically imprisoned, she seemed not at all bothered by this – perhaps, it is not so far off to say that she actually seems happy.
Finally, I believe an important aspect of the film is the fact that it can be perceived as feminist film and empowerment. Women in the real world and in film have often regressed to the backdrop – in real life through the oppression of a system that inherently remains patriarchal, and in film as supporting characters, more often than not depicted as the “love interest”, of the brave male hero. Thus, it is exciting to see the how in these women’s control (the mother and the main character) or embracement (the sister) of their utmost carnal desire, there nonetheless remains the fact of their acknowledgement of it – and this has power. To portray a film that already goes against taboo, using the lead characters of women taking power over their individuality, is a powerful testament to the rest of the filmmaking world – not to mention a unique was of doing so.