Raw is a French cannibal film written and directed by Julia Ducournau. Despite my love of earlier French cannibal film Dans Ma Peau (written and directed by Marina de Van in 2002) I wouldn't have said I'm a fan of cannibal films in general and put off seeing this one for longer than necessary. I never really liked the Italian cannibal films like Cannibal Holocaust and Deep River Savages in which people run around the jungle in their pants and bother real animals on camera. Raw doesn't take place in a jungle, although interestingly there are people running around in their pants and animal bothering so maybe I should start this review again.
It's really good. Like the best horror films it's not really about cannibalism, although you will need a strong stomach to get through some of it (I nearly threw up at one point and I've seen things you people wouldn't believe). It would be easy to label Raw as a film with a vegan agenda. There’s a scene early on in which the main character, Justine (Garance Marillier), argues that animals feel the same things humans do. The film then proceeds to show us humans at their most animalistic with Justine herself experiencing the most extreme and most physical transformation. I think that’s valid but for me this was more a film about figuring out who you are. Ultimately, Justine’s discovery of her taste for human flesh isn’t presented as a bad thing. Sure, it’s a problem, although there is the possibility that she may embrace it, but the act of discovery is as liberating for her as it is for the audience.
The scene in which Justine tries human flesh for the first time is transcendent in its visceral and emotional beauty. Ducournau and Marillier take the viewer from apprehension to disgust to cathartic release bordering on pure joy, which you wouldn't expect in a scene that involves eating a finger. Then there's that slow dolly shot towards Justine where we move between a woman licking a man's eyeball, which doesn't have anything to do with what I was talking about but it's the coolest fucking shot I've seen in a long time (and I've seen things...).
There is horror in the film but it doesn't come from the natural horror and revulsion prompted by Justine's actions. The real horror is the fact that upon discovering her true self Justine doesn't find anything new at all; she finds something that was already there. Raw explores the idea that as much as we think we're autonomous individuals we're actually on rails, following exactly the same path as those who went before us. That's a truly terrifying thought and it's that revelation that makes Raw an incredible horror film.