Julia Ducournau‘s coming-of-age film Raw has reportedly made audiences at certain film festivals faint with horror. In reality, the film is hardly that gruesome, and its unfortunate reputation should not distract from excellent craftsmanship and its complicated expression of the feminine rite of passage.
This is an impressive feature debut from Ducournau, who utilises lead actress Garance Marillier’s performative flexibility. Who else could make the leap from vegetarian virgin to cannibalistic seductress in such a brief space of time, and still retain the character’s integrity? Interestingly, this film shies away from the classic female monster trope, instead rendering our protagonist as an entirely sympathetic one, caught between the virtuous ideal and the monstrous instinct. Rather than inspiring terror herself, our protagonist’s tragic journey leaves us most concerned for her shame.
It is no coincidence that this film is set at a veterinary college. There is a sly suggestion that there is no difference between the animal and the human – even that a raped monkey suffers the same trauma as a raped woman. The film goes further, suggesting that it is explicitly the women who share this connection. The animal isn’t insidious, it just follows its natural drive – and likewise our leading women take different approaches to combating their urges with their moral compasses. Raw challenges the notion that a woman with desire is a monster, encouraging us to see the human smile behind the bloody lips. This is a masterfully feminist film, and should not missed.