Raw (2016)

“It’s my pussy!”

Raw is a French-Belgian coming-of-age film telling the story of a vegetarian named Justine, who enters a veterinary school experiencing disturbing hazing rituals and the seductive environment of a college campus. Desperate to fit in, she goes against her beliefs and tastes raw meat for the first time, setting off a chain of events which forces her true, deranged and animalistic self to emerge from within. This arthouse-horror cannibalistic film which put most New French Extremity films to shame, premiered at festivals worldwide to critical acclaim, and manages to, amidst the grotesque horror, illustrate complex themes of adulthood, lust, body image, bullying, and sex.

Raw starts off with a wide landscape followed by a car crash, breaking from the get-go the false sense of security the film lulls us in, and with the jarring inclusion of the film’s title, sets the mood for what film Raw is within the first 10 minutes. The car accident also foreshadows the protagonist experiencing a major obstacle in her life, a break in her journey if you will. In case you can’t already tell, this is a film that screams metaphors. During the first week of school, Justine tastes rabbit kidney and ends up with a bad allergic reaction. The shredding of her skin because of the allergic reaction symbolizes her growth as a person, how she shed her shell of innocence and experienced a metamorphosis in her mindset. She also goes through anorexia, after a conversation with her classmates about animal rights and how monkeys could be anorexic too, illustrating her growing innate desire to conform to societal norms. These are just some of the complex themes in a teen coming into adulthood that the film masterfully explores with subtle metaphors.

The film’s cinematography is wonderful, with immaculate use of distinct colors and exaggerated lighting in order to heighten tension and also complement the film’s expressionistic and theatrical nature. The lighting in the bedroom waxing scene stands out to me personally as one of the subtler yet effective examples in the film, adding so much more space to the small room, this increased depth not only provides more detail to the shot composition but also subtly disturbs the audience, accompanying the already disturbing and horrific context of the scene. Other than the cinematography, other aspects of the filmmaking are also micromanaged and exaggerated, such as jarring use of the film’s score, filled with as much intensity and power as the film’s narrative itself, extremely impressive for a directorial debut.

In short, Raw is by far one of the greatest and most unique coming-of-age films in the history of cinema, it is a film that you cannot possibly hate, unless you happen to be vegan. Every aspect of the film is extensively brilliant, from the technical aspects to the artistic ones to even minor things like casting and cutaways. This is definitely not another shallow, pretentious drama, written by a middle aged woman who understands nothing about kids, about superficial topics such as high-school bullying or romance like what most coming-of-age teenage films unfortunately are. If you are someone who enjoys gore, sex and horror, or just an open-minded cinephile, Raw will not disappoint you.

By: Perrin Tan

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