Poetic, breath-taking and sensational probably aren’t the words most people would associate with cannibalism, but they are the best words to describe Julia Ducournau’s Raw. Her latest entry to the Cannibal genre gave us one of the most thought-provoking movies of this subject matter in years. She doesn’t treat her heroines as monsters, but humans made of flesh and blood they so desperately crave.
Raw tells the story of young vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier), who leaves safety of her family home for the first time in order to start college. It seems like the beginning of every teen movie ever made, but it turns out Justin isn’t like other teenagers. Her parents didn’t raise her as a vegan only because of their moral superiority and concern for animal welfare. They did it to protect every human being she may come across. During a bizarre hazing ritual at college, Justin’s older sister forces her to consume animal flash for the first time. Something hidden awakens inside of her after the first exposure to meat, and she can’t stop craving for more. The tricky part is, her craving doesn’t end with animals – she wants to taste human flesh, as well.
Ducournau considers cannibalism the only taboo we approach like it doesn’t exist, and without level of humanity. This happens because it’s present inside all of us, and we’d rather ignore it than face the animal within- which can’t escape. She rejects this notion injecting her characters with soul, but each soul can be clouded with evil thoughts and desires. Her heroine Justine is no different, despite her seemingly unwavering moral compass when we meet her for the first time.
There’s a reason why Raw takes place on a college campus, which serves as a site for transformation, re-examination and sexual awakening. It’s a place where innocence goes to die, and Justine waves goodbye to hers in the most brutal way. Her craving for human flesh is inseparably connected to her carnal desires, and on her path to handling her urges Justine loses her sense of self, the trust in her family and the only person who showed her kindness.