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‘Raw’ Review: A French Coming-Of-Age Film Body Horror Fans Should Not Miss

In the 2016 French-Belgian horror film ‘Raw,’ a young vegetarian, Justine, starts her journey at a veterinary school. She faces a shocking change as she begins to crave meat in a very unusual way.

2016’s ‘Raw’ is a standout French-Belgian drama that explores body horror. Directed by Julia Ducournau, the film is a narrative that blends themes of cannibalism, female sexuality, and coming-of-age struggles, set against the backdrop of a veterinary school with its own initiation rituals.

The Film’s Premise

At its core, ‘Raw‘ follows Justine, a lifelong vegetarian, portrayed with remarkable acting talent by Garance Marillier. Justine finds herself in the throes of a renowned veterinary school’s ‘bizarre’ initiation rituals. The definitive moment comes when she is coerced into eating a raw rabbit’s kidney.

Although Justine didn’t want to eat it as she has been a vegetarian, she ‘has to’ do so when her older sister urges her. This later triggers a burgeoning appetite for meat that spirals into cannibalistic desires. Justine’s transition from innocence to a more sinister inclination is both unsettling and thought-provoking.

Alexia is Justine’s older sister, played by Ella Rumpf. Alexia’s assertive and influential presence plays an important role in Justine’s transformation, presenting us with a familial bond formed by their shared, unconventional cravings. ‘Raw’ explores deeper themes of identity and familial influence through this dynamic.

Why You Should Watch ‘Raw’?

Visually, ‘Raw’ is a blend of graphic and bloody imagery that is masterfully captured by cinematographer Ruben Impens. The film has a vivid use of color and light to create a nightmarish yet aesthetically pleasing tableau. This visual feast is complemented by Jim Williams’ chilling score, which enhances the film’s haunting atmosphere.

Ducournau’s directorial approach in ‘Raw’ is also worth praise for its fearless exploration of taboo topics. The film effectively juxtaposes the grotesque and the mundane, which results in a narrative that extends beyond mere shock value. It’s not just the graphic scenes that leave an impression but also the portrayal of everyday challenges faced by a young woman in a male-dominated environment.

Moreover, ‘Raw’ cleverly uses cannibalism as a metaphor to offer a fresh perspective on body horror. It explores themes of indulgence, abstinence, and societal norms by presenting a nuanced exploration of these concepts. The film’s metaphorical depth extends to its commentary on sexual awakening and empowerment, as seen through Justine’s transformative journey.

Final Verdict

‘Raw’ made a significant impact in the international film festival circuit. Its premiere at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival was marked by extreme audience reactions. On the other hand, it also appealed to a wide audience. The film currently has an IMDb rating of 7.0, a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 93%, and a Metacritic score of 81.

As a debut feature from Ducournau, ‘Raw’ has a unique voice in the horror genre. It draws comparisons to the works of David Cronenberg and David Lynch yet maintains a distinct identity. Ducournau’s ability to blend horror with elements of humor and emotional depth is an achievement worth praise, making ‘Raw’ a must-watch film in contemporary horror cinema.

‘Raw’ offers more than just gore and shock. For fans of body horror, metaphors, and a deeper narrative, it is a film that should not be overlooked.

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