By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
An artistic prose is something that is a unique trait in the landscape of Hollywood today, however, is there such thing as being too imaginative with a film? Julia Ducournau attempts to provide an answer to that question with her unique film Raw that focuses on providing a metaphorical and symbolic perspective that uses the graphic imagery of cannibalism, sexuality, and the familiar genre of a coming of age story to compose a uniquely horrific movie. Beginning with a simplistic narrative of a young girl named Justine who chooses to follow in the footsteps of her family to become a veterinary physician, Raw soon transitions into a visually provocative film anchored with an immersive atmosphere, using the horrific concept of cannibalism to provide an artistic perspective of embracing adulthood and confronting your faults as a person to further yourself as an individual.
Raw displays the ridiculous talent that Julia Ducournau possesses as a director. She undoubtedly demonstrates the creative camera skills she possesses on multiple occasions in the entirety of this ninety nine-minute runtime, using the camera to fabricate violent imagery that crawls underneath your skin and lingers long after the fade of the end credits. Very rarely has a film made me squirm in my theater seat and shy my eyes away from the screen to the point of an almost disturbed uncomfortability. It was the actions of me cringing in the seats and diverting my eyes away from the screen that made me recognize the immaculate talent of Julia Ducournau, not only as a director but also as the creative writer behind the intriguing screenplay. With a unique construction of a screenplay that contains an attractive design of the act structure, Raw fails to let the audience even begin to conceptualize the emotion of boredom.
From the opening minutes, we are immediately launched into a remarkably captivating story that forces the audience to imagine their interpretations of the meaning and reasoning for the existence of this exquisite example of the art of filmmaking. Opening with an encompassing long shot of a highway, glancing at both directions, to create a relatable sense of tension. As all of us have looked both ways before crossing the street, that suspenseful and at times tedious process that is purely a safety precaution for us as human beings before we cross a physical landscape which is dominated by machines. This opening scene continues with this brilliantly designed tension by glancing both ways once more until we begin to recognize a car from a distance. We look back to the opposite direction of the vehicle, and cutaway to the car nearing our point of perspective.
The whole time the film is silent with only the environment itself providing a score to the movie. The engine of the car providing an increasing sense of tension as the volume of the exterior noise of the vehicle increases as the car becomes closer to our viewpoint. Then suddenly we see the outline of a person dive in front of the car. The car swerves off the road and in dramatic fashion collides into a tree on the side of the road. Silence fills the scene with a continuous long shot; we sit in silence waiting for an action or a word of dialogue to begin the narrative. Instead, the camera lingers on this accident as if it is a crime scene. We see it as a suicidal attempt that went according to plan if you will until the shot begins to come to an end we start to notice the outline of this person starts to pick themselves up from the asphalt. This opening scene is eccentric and vibrant and serves as a remarkable introduction into a narrative that reflects some of the hinted themes provided in this introductory sequence.
This display of augmenting filmmaking is further enhanced with unusual and exceptional performances from Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf. Portraying different and conflicting characters that are dynamic as well as subtle in their motivations and performances. However, while all of these aspects of the film are proficient and uncommon in the modern day landscape of movies. Raw at points suffers a bit from it’s over reliance on symbolism or visual representation of the major psychological concepts. Where it should provide a simple glance to provide a relation to the story or a less intricate design to portray a simple idea, Raw instead continues its artistical approach. While rare and enchanting, this style begins to conflict with its narratives message to the point of confusion.
The only way that I could exemplify or support this criticism is to spoil and minutely analyze every scene of the ninety-nine minute run time of Raw. I will say that this is a film with the desired response and a prolific film design, yet the message I gathered from its narrative that is shared among others conflicts with some of the character arcs and narrative sequences. Raw is an ingenious demonstration of Julia Ducournau’s talents as a filmmaker. With an innovative concept that not only lingers from its unnerving imagery of horrific experiences but a concept that also clings to you because of the questions it’s asking us as viewers of a cultivated film such as Raw.
Using its unusual design to entrance us into an artistic perspective on an idea that is begging us to ask the question of what makes an act horrific? Are all of us equal with our dark desires? If this is true, then our we all begging to demonize others actions before demonizing our own, creating an unjust society that feeds on the weak and the enemies created by the masses of propaganda and fear mongering. Why don’t we begin to react as Justine does in her realization of her family’s arcane secret desires? Why do we not embrace and confront our concealed desires for pain, revenge, or simply justification? Maybe Julia Ducournau’s Raw isn’t a fantastical and metaphorical viewpoint on psychological concepts but instead a provocative proposition of how we should examine our sinister desires.