Deemed to celebrate humanity’s greatest taboos– RAW is being critiqued as merely a showy coming-of-age cannibal film, but it truly deserves more credit for that. This film, as a matter of fact, can top your list of the most grotesque films that have ever been made. On the surface level, the scenes can be seen as plainly nasty and absurd. However, it is visceral and elegant in its artful way of reflecting systemic conflicts that can occur in a daily life of a freshman on her first year of medical school. Julia Ducournau might have possibly utilized the indulgence of human meat as a metaphor for an adolescent’s sexual awakening but more than that, the evolution of identity and discovery of a sense of self is explored all throughout the film. Justine, an archetypal vegetarian virgin, a rookie in the vast complex extremities of the playing field, represents a huge percentage of teenagers who have established a set of values and principles, that are yet to be destroyed by the evils of the environment.
Growing up in a conservative, vegetarian and veterinarian family, Justine seeks to excel in school, putting other unsubstantial things aside. Initially resistant and repulsed by the disheveled chaos in medical school, she suddenly discovers how a tiny nibble of raw rabbit flesh can stir up something intrinsic in her- a hunger for something uncanny she never really acknowledged.
Momentarily, a significant scene is shown in the film where Adrien her roomate, finds her snudging into the refrigerator tearing into a raw chicken breast, preconditioning her indulgences in the near future. With the plot build-up, it can be divided into the various metamorphic stages of a creature turning into its most natural form, similarly to how a werewolf will first turn on its first full moon– this film showcased Justine on her way to becoming what she truly is.
Another perplexing but powerful scene was when Justine, slowly watched the blood trickle from her sister’s fingers on her hand, and her eyes were glistening as she knew what she wanted to do with it. The moment she gave into her desires, lead her to a lifestyle that is so drastically contradictory to the philosophy she was raised with. Here we see her character evolution, from a reserved girl who felt lost within herself, to a brazen young woman who has finally accepted herself and found her place.
Beguiled into her newfound lust for human flesh, Justine craves for someone to understand her, thinking that it was her sister who would help control her, it was surprisingly her homosexual roommate Adrien. Given that he was able to guide her and watch out for her and she actually felt safe with him– it was truly terrifying to find him lifeless at the end of the film. Suddenly the mood from being so terrifying became so heart-wrenching for quite a few minutes. This then shows a distressing fact that with her situation, the people close to her are bound to get hurt.
The element of relatability is evident in the film given lots of realities are portrayed. A concrete one which is the rookie initiation that is played out in the first scenes of the film, included buckets of blood, delirious parties, body paint carnality and forced feeding of raw animal parts. Tackling peer pressure, conformity to one’s environment and unending indulgence, Raw is intimate and analogous to an adolescent growing up. This realism leads Justine’s bloody rights of passage to go beyond callousness into something custom-built for the audience.