I knew this film was going to blow me away once I found out it was French. Also, I felt an immediate connection learning that the protagonist is a lifelong vegetarian before she gets her first taste of raw meat. Heh. Get it? Raw?
Anyway, the film opens on a young girl going away to veterinary school, joining her sister who is an upperclassman at the same school. Both of her parents also went to that school and met there. So they’re all vets? Getting weird yet? Good. Moving on to her fist night, hazing ensues. I mean, I didn’t realize hazing was a thing anymore, but it is, and if you go to vet school, you get doused in red paint and forced to eat raw rabbit guts. Things happen quickly after that, the turning point being that Justine, our main girl, is staying at her sister Alexia’s dorm getting a Brazilian wax, because I guess sisters do that stuff. After the wax gets stuck, Justine kicks the scissors out of her sisters hand, but cuts her sister’s finger off in the process. Alexia passes out, Justine eats the finger, and it’s all downhill from there.
Let’s all take note of the fabulous work this female director did *bows* and we salute you.
Let’s begin with the timeline and how flawless it is. These gruesome events are unfolding at the precise moment where she is growing and learning who she really is as a person. A fabulous coming of age story. Surprise. It’s a cannibal. Also the relationship with her sister, strange as it may be, is beautiful. Their fights, abnormal, are still a part of every sisterhood, especially in a university setting.
The story also has no holds barred, each shot taking whatever is happening on screen to the utmost extreme. The hazing, the partying, the cannibalizing, the gore. A great example is the portrayal of how Alexia “hunts” for her victims. She lays low in a ditch alongside a mildly busy road, and at the opportune moment, jumps out of hiding and in front of the car. She knows she won’t be hit, as each car swerves away to avoid her, the drivers in turn end up dying in the accident, hitting a tree head on. And then, she eats their corpses from there to sustain herself. A clever, yet extreme way, to show how she keeps up with her lifestyle.
Not surprisingly, this film is able to encompass a good handful of characters while at the same time, developing them and their relationships with each other. Their personalities are also extremely relatable because they are college students. I want to shout out the relationship Justine has with her gay roommate Adrien. He looks out for her, and watches over her from day one. They have a cute brother and sister thing, until they end up having sex. But she cares for him, and it’s seen in the way that she doesn’t eat him, or even bite him to draw blood. He doesn’t understand her bloodlust, but she spares him because he’s genuinely kind.
Once again discussing the relationship between Justine and her sister, if we can look past the eating, the biting and ripping skin off, and teasing with dead bodies, their relationship is quite the normal big sister, little sister thing. Cannibalism is a part of both of them, so they may fight, but their relationship is strengthened because of the secret they share. No single sister needs to carry the burden alone anymore. Their fights, their hangouts, borrowing clothes, giving…Brazilian waxes, it’s just a part of it all.
My favorite part. Once the film opened, the stunning, dreary looking long shot of the road and the car before Alexia jumps in front of it.
All great long shots, and the cinematography just keeps serving up the looks. Each scene is displayed to the viewer so we can feel the atmosphere just by watching the shots compiled together on the screen. Two great contrasting examples would have to be the first rave that Justine is pushed into on her first night at the vet school. And also the subsequent parties that she attends. All filled with an ugly red light that promotes a violent and lustful environment.
This scene captures the feeling: loud, anxious, stuffy, and blindingly bright red light although the room couldn’t be dimmer.
Next comes the first trip Justine takes through the lunch line, the same scene of her stealing what looks like a hamburger patty (but she’s caught, don’t worry, Adrien pays for it, what a hero) and all the meat that is served in the line is illuminated with ugly blood-red heat lamps. She’s a vegetarian, and eating meat, to her and her family, is wrong. Why do you think they’re all veterinarians? The light soaking through the meat should make anyone feel grossed out. This red light conveys the opposite of the party scenes, simply disgust at the sight of it.
I can’t find a photo, so just take my word for it, or watch the film, or both.
Raw also does a great job of portraying chaos, the lighting, the shots, and not to mention the incredible score that is reminiscent of traditional old-school horror films. It hones in on the eeriness in moments of horror using this incredible music, such as the moment after Justine cuts off her sister’s finger and tastes the blood. The sound booms out of the speakers and everyone watching knows that this is the beginning of her addiction to human flesh.
Finally, my favorite part, let’s talk gore. Now, this isn’t a “gory” movie, however, it does pay respects to the setting and the theme: veterinary school and cannibalism. There are dissections of animals (not real ones, guys) where we see blood, viscera, organs all coming out. When there is cannibalism, the amount of blood shown, flesh, and human anatomy is all correct. In the end (spoilers) when she wakes up to see that Adrien’s leg is half eaten away, we get a great shot of the muscles and bone beneath the skin eaten, and instead of some stupid Halloween prop, someone looked up the anatomy of the leg of a college-aged athletic male and did phenomenally. My hat’s off to makeup.
The thing about this cannibalism, is, I’m guessing, a metaphor for drug addiction, alcoholism, or any addictive personality that can be easily passed down hereditarily from parents to offspring. The father gives away that the mother is a cannibal, but finds a way to deal with it or cope, and now the two daughters must learn to do the same thing, now that they are matured, physically and mentally. Instead of drugs, it’s human flesh. They try to find normalcy but cutting meat entirely out of their lives, by never eating it to being veterinarians and reinforcing their love for other living things. It just doesn’t work each time, but the lifestyle change could be the only way this family holds onto their humanity.
All in all, I give this one a:
Hell yeah that fucked me up. Because it sure did.
Until next time!