I should have known what I was getting into the second I bought my ticket to see Raw. The Cinemapolis employee handed my friend and I customized Raw barf bags and band-aids. Yikes.
I decided to see Raw without knowing much about it. As someone who is a borderline hypochondriac and easily freaks myself out at times, I do not often (ever, really) see horror movies. Raw is categorized as a “drama/horror film.” However, the best word that I can think of to describe Raw is “creepy.” It is not scary, just bizarre.
From my understanding, Raw is a radical coming-of-age movie. It shows growing up and trying new things at their utmost extremity. The French movie follows a teenage girl named Justine. Justine and her family have been vegetarians their entire lives. She has lived with her family and been restricted to meat and many more grown-up interactions. She is a virgin.
Justine begins at a veterinary school and is away from home for the first time. The older students haze the first-years in some of the most absurd and painful ways. One of the hazing activities forces Justine to eat a rabbit kidney. She tries to refuse because of her vegetarianism, but her upperclassmen older sister essentially forces the rabbit kidney down her throat.
That night after eating the rabbit kidney, Justine wakes up itching and with a horrid rash all over her body. This scene is where I realized how truly amazing the cinematography in Raw was: when Justine was itchy, I too was itchy. I felt that rash on my body. I felt like I too was tossing and turning under the sheets. With the camera lens going under the sheets with Justine, viewers felt like they too were itching.
From that point on, Justine’s world was open to meat. She began to eat it all the time and in extremely abundant amounts. In one scene, she sits by the fridge shoving copious amounts of raw fish down her throat.
Justine also began to eat her own hair. She ate large amounts of it and then threw it up. I think this purging of the hair is to show the relation of Justine’s extreme eating disorder to the eating disorders we see in our society.
During a haircut accident, her older sister’s finger is cut off. Justine is first saddened by what happened, and then becomes intrigued by the finger and her sister’s blood. She then eats the finger. Cannibalism is alive.
Watching Justine stare at the finger and begin to suck the blood out is absurdly hard to watch. She ate the finger like it was the best piece of new, undiscovered food in the world. I cried some during this scene: most likely some of sadness for deciding to see this film and mostly of pure disgust and confusion. I almost got up and left after watching Justine devour the finger.
The thing is, I did not want to keep on watching the movie. But, I could not look away from it either. I was in a trance — in this world with Justine.
We then find out that the sister eats humans, too. Her tactic was to hide on the side of the road and run out, at the right time for cars to swerve and hit a tree. She was causing car crashes to produce fresh, raw meat. It was disgusting, but as I said before I could not stop watching.
Justine also has sex for the first time soon after her initial encounter with meat. I think that her loss of virginity is another indication of how the meat pushed Justine to grow up. She only became interested in boys, sexual music and partying after she began eating raw meat. When having sex with her roommate, all Justine wanted to do was eat him. During sex, she kept on trying to bite his arm and eat his raw, human meat. At the end, when he would not let her bite him, she bit into her own arm and ate some of her own flesh.
Without giving away too much of the movie, I will just say, it gets freakier. I found myself working to decipher all of the hidden messages. A lot of scenes from early in the movie meant nothing to me, until finding out later. For example, the first scene of the movie is of a hidden figure running into the road and insinuating a car crash into a tree in the same location as when the sister does it later. The juxtaposition of scenes and themes was outstanding.
I was sincerely in awe by how well the film was made. Everything about Raw was fantastically bizarre. The intense hazing, for example, added another layer of the pressures of growing up. All of the cinematography was perfectly eerie. The way that the camera techniques placed you in Justine’s flesh were beyond impressive. The camera lens went where we viewers did not want to go, but once there, could not peel their eyes away. The music was ominous, its volume climaxing in sync with the horror scenes.
As a French film, all of Raw was in French with English subtitles. I thought that it made the movie a little less scary. The French-speaking put a wall between me and Justine. On the other hand, my friend thought the French-speaking added another level of creepiness to the film.
Parts of the movie made absolutely no sense to me. Perhaps that is the point. We are not supposed to get everything about everyone. Growing up does not mean understanding every action.
As a young director and writer, Julia Ducournau should be very proud of her work in Raw. I believe she illustrated true talent. Garance Marillier’s acting was also very competent. Ruben Impens’ cinematography was unquestionably a substantial part of the film’s success. While I really did enjoy Raw, I do not think that I ever want to see a similar movie again. I am sleeping with the lights on tonight.
Becky Frank is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.